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Since 1980, life expectancy at birth has increased by 5.5 years for boys and by 3.1 years for girls in the Netherlands. Since 2002, the mortality rate has fallen (CBS, July 2008). The most common symptoms and conditions are neck and back complaints, eczema, arthrosis, coronary heart diseases, visual disorders, age-related and noise-induced hearing loss, diabetes, asthma/COPD and depression. These conditions affect quality of life the most because of their impact, duration or both. Between 1993 and 2003, asthma, diabetes, depression, anxiety disorders and strokes have had the greatest increase in number. Most of the above conditions are of a chronic nature and occur more often in older people. A number of these illnesses can be influenced by adapting one’s lifestyle. Many of the conditions mentioned here are caused in part, or exacerbated, by smoking and obesity, and in some cases by alcohol abuse as well.
As for acute conditions, regular mention is being made of the possible emergence of new viruses which could lead to a pandemic in the future: varieties of the avian influenza virus, swine flu, the SARS virus and Q-fever.
The information on health and illness in the Netherlands is based on several data sources, such as epidemiological research among the general public, health care registrations and written records. The advantages of health care registrations are that the data on illnesses is based on a professional judgment and that they can be made available with relatively little effort and at a low cost. Partly because of the standards set for electronic patient files and for insurance claims, this data is being registered in an ever more standardized way. This increases the usefulness and reliability of the data for scientific research which is registered routinely for the health care sector. The more health care professionals use web-based information systems, the greater the increase in the accessibility of this data. The (possible) future use of the BSN (Dutch personal identity number) for health care research offers opportunities for an optimal connection of registrations, making it possible for information on illnesses from various sectors of the health care system to be brought together.
Registrations by primary health care providers, such as GP’s, physiotherapists and primary care psychologists, are ideally suited to gain an insight into the health of the Dutch population. The primary sector is the place people first turn to with complaints. Because of name-based registration, GP’s can also get an overview of the incidence of diseases in the secondary care. With a view to the proposed National Study of Illnesses and Care in the Primary Sector, these monodisciplinary orientated registration systems will be integrated into a multidisciplinary primary care information system about health and illness (LINEL). Considering the direct access to the various primary care professionals, LINEL is also necessary for a complete overview of health and illness as presented to health care professionals.
NIVEL participates in the consortium ‘NESDA’ (Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety). The data that is being collected over a ten year-period among approximately 1500 people with a diagnosed anxiety disorder or depression can be used for the research into the development of the psychiatric disorders ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’.