LONDON, Feb 22 (Reuters) Heart disease in all its forms is the biggest single health problem facing the European Union, costing the bloc's 25 members a total of 169 billion euros in 2003, according to a study today.
Not only did cardiovascular disease (CVD) on average cost every EU citizen 230 euros in healthcare, but it led to 268.5 million lost working days, killed two million people and affected the daily lives of 4.4 million others.
''CVD is the biggest single health problem facing Europe both in terms of resource burden and economic burden,'' said lead researcher Jose Leal from Oxford University.
Leal said research by a team from the university's Health Economics Research Centre was the first to assess the economic impact of all aspects of CVD -- primary care, emergency, medicine, outpatient and inpatient -- on all the bloc's members.
It noted that some 1.4 million people were involved in providing unpaid care to sufferers of coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease alone -- which together account for 47 percent of costs and two-thirds of deaths.
Leal said the research, published in European Heart Journal, aimed to highlight in straightforward monetary terms the scale of the problem facing EU policy makers.
Germany and Britain together accounted for over half the EU's total CVD costs -- primarily because of their large populations.
The UK topped the CVD spending league, allocating 17.1 per cent of its total healthcare budget to the problem. Germany, Slokavia, Estonia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Poland all spent 15 per cent.
At the bottom were Ireland at 4.4 and Malta at 2.0 per cent.
Leal stressed there was no single cause of the illness and therefore no single solution, and insisted the figures did not reflect any suggestion that individual countries were spending too much or too little on the problem.
''The real use is that it will allow comparisons to be made within countries and the EU as a whole of the burden imposed by different diseases,'' he said. ''This should help potentially to prioritise scare resources.'' Reuters SI DB0916