Japan enjoys the highest life expectancy among OECD countries and does relatively well in improving health outcomes, but it has room to improve in areas such as smoking rates and hospital stays, according to the latest edition of a biennial health care report issued Friday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Health at a Glance 2017, which compares data and trends from health systems in 35 member countries, shows Japan continues to lead in achieving good health outcomes, with the highest life expectancy at 83.9 years, compared to the OECD average of 80.6 years. It also boasts the lowest obesity rate of 3.7 percent, significantly lower than the OECD average of 19.4 percent, and a stroke-caused mortality rate of 34.1 per 100,000 in 2015, way below the OECD average of 112 per 100,000.
“Healthy lifestyles, good access to health care and a generally high quality of care have contributed to such favorable health outcomes, all achieved with a level of spending not much higher than the OECD average,” the report said about Japan’s performance.
Japan’s health spending has been rising with its graying population. In the latest comparison, it ranked sixth in share of GDP spent on health, at 10.9 percent, slightly higher than the OECD average of 9 percent.
On the other hand, Japan’s smoking rate of 18.2 percent is almost equal to the OECD average of 18.4 percent and remains especially high among men at 30.1 percent.
Japan also has the highest number of hospital beds per capita, at 13.2 per 1,000. These are often occupied by patients who have a social — rather than medical — need to stay in hospitals.
The average hospital stay for all causes was 16.5 days in Japan, the highest in the OECD. The average length of stay in the OECD was 7.8 days.
The paper further notes Japan is the largest spender in capital investment as a share of GDP, at 1.1 percent, compared to the OECD average of 0.5 percent and the average of 0.8 percent marked by runner-up Belgium.
“While such a high investment reflects an effort to meet growing demands, we want to emphasize that Japan also needs to raise productivity,” said Akiko Maeda, a senior health economist at the OECD. “For example, the number of MRIs and CT scanners per capita is very high in Japan, but the utilization rate per item of equipment is low. How to utilize such (expensive) equipment is an issue it needs to tackle from now on.”