Comparability of Data Is an Issue
The authors presented a data collection on the self-assessment of health and lifestyle of residents of the region Neubrandenburg in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). For those who have not got the facts at the ready, after re-unification, the GDR regions were disbanded and the Neubrandenburg region was allocated primarily to the federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The downfall of the GDR and the transformation of especially these rural areas in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania resulted in substantial social dislocations that were partly mentioned in the study but were only marginally considered in the calculation and interpretation of the results.
The results—especially the unanimously expressed lower satisfaction compared with the data of the socioeconomic panel for the west (SOEP), but also the burden of disease—are primarily due to the structural change and to a lesser extent to the rural character and peripheralization of the region under study and the “benefits of modernization.” These include:
- A substantial increase in unemployment after reunification (around 20% in the mid-1990s, currently around 12%, and in some regions of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania still some 20%),
- The strong trend for young people and families to move away while fewer people move in and the rising number of single-person households,
- The fall in the population (minus 300 000 in 1989–2010, >20% in some areas), and
- The ageing population that has remained (40% drop in people younger than 20 years, 40% increase in those aged 85 or older).
The statement is further qualified by the exhaustion of investigation waves, which dropped over time, as the authors themselves discussed. This study is therefore subject to primarily the bias of the fundamental socioeconomic changes in the federal state (or region) and the bias of unemployed and elderly persons, which makes it difficult to compare the collected data with those collected in other studies within Germany.
Prof. Dr. med. Adrian Gillissen
|1.||Statistisches Amt Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: Bevölkerungsstatistik. www.statistik-mv.de/|
|2.||Elkeles T, Beck D, Röding D, Fischer S, Forkel JA: Health and lifestyle in rural northeast Germany: the findings of a rural health study from 1973, 1994, and 2008. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2012; 109(16): 285–92. VOLLTEXT|