Perceptions are a funny thing. Often they don't quite match up to reality. For example, a recent study of how healthy Europeans feel is not quite supported by the evidence. A comparison of two studies, which looked at how healthy Europeans feel and how healthy they actually are shows how some nationalities, like the Maltese and Bulgarians, underestimate their true average health, while Cypriots felt healthier than they really are.
According to new Eurostat figures, two-thirds (67.5%) of EU and Norway residents aged over 16 perceived their health status as "very good or good," while less than a tenth (8.8%) believed their health was "bad or very bad" in 2016.
Men rated their health better than women. About 70% of men felt their health was very good or good, compared with 66% of women.
Self-perceptions about health were logged as very good, good, fair, bad, and very bad.
The top five countries that perceived their health as being "good or very good" are Ireland, Cyprus, Norway, the Netherlands, and Sweden.
Countries that feel their health is the best:
1. Ireland (82.8%)
2. Cyprus (78.7%)
3. Norway (77.1%)
4. Netherlands (75.9%)
5. Sweden (75.1%)
6. Greece (74.0%)
7. Belgium (73.7%)
8. Malta (72.9%)
9. Spain (72.5%)
10. Denmark (71.3%)
11. Italy (70.9%)
12. Romania (70.5%)
13. Austria (70.3%)
14. Finland (70.3%)
15. Luxembourg (69.2%)
16. United Kingdom (69.0%)
On the other hand, almost one in five people, aged 16 and over, feel their health level is "very bad or bad" in Croatia, Lithuania, Portugal, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Hungary.
Countries that perceived their health status as the worst:
1. Croatia (18.7%)
2. Lithuania (16.9%)
3. Portugal (15.9%)
4. Latvia (15.6%)
5. Estonia (14.4%)
6. Poland (13.6%)
7. Hungary (13.2%)
8. Czech Republic (11.8%)
9. Slovakia (11.7%)
10. Bulgaria (11.0%)
11. Greece (10.3)
12. Slovenia (9.9%)
13. Luxembourg (9.6%)
14. Belgium (9.2%)
But how does this compare to reality?
However, compared to 2015 statistics Malta and Sweden topped the list.
The study measured the average portion of life that people experience good health in each of these countries. Rather than taking life expectancy as an indicator of good health, it measured the average share of years people can expect to be well.
For women, for example, the top five countries with the healthiest life years at birth in 2015 were Malta, Sweden, Bulgaria, Norway, and Ireland.
For men, these countries varied slightly. In the top spot was Sweden, followed by Malta, Norway, Iceland, and Bulgaria.
In the "how healthy do people feel" study, Maltese people considered there health to be worse off and Bulgaria did not even feature among the top five, while according to the "healthy life years'" data both Malta and Bulgaria have some of the healthiest people in Europe.
Some of the unhealthiest countries for both men and women include Portugal, Latvia, and Estonia, which match more closely with how healthy people feel in these countries.