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HEALTH

UN: Fear of ageing ‘shortens your life’

Being afraid of growing old may shorten your life, the UN health agency said on Thursday, as new data highlighted the widespread prevalence of ageist attitudes worldwide.

UN: Fear of ageing 'shortens your life'
The number of people over 60 worldwide is set to double by 2025. Photo: Hernan Pinera

In a first-of-its-kind survey released by the Geneva-based World Health Organization, 60 percent of respondents said they believed older people “were not respected.”
   
Attitudes towards older people were more negative in richer countries, according to the data from more than 83,000 respondents, who were 18 years of age and older in 57 countries.
   
The data confirms “that ageism is extremely common,” said John Beard, WHO's head of Ageing and Life Course.
   
He warned that discriminatory and negative views about older people can have sweeping consequences, including for younger people.
   
“There is very good evidence that people who have negative views of themselves as they grow older… it shortens their lives,” Beard told reporters.
   
WHO cited recently published research indicating that “people who hold negative views about their own ageing, do not recover as well from disability and live on average 7.5 years less than people with positive attitudes.”
   
Attitudes about ageing are “on the level that racism and sexism were maybe 20, 30 or 40 years ago,” Beard said.
   
“Things which are no longer accepted if you were talking about someone on the basis of their race or sex are still tolerated when it comes down to their age.”
   
WHO does not define the group of people victimized by ageism.
   
Such discrimination could be directed at a 50-year-old seeking a new job, or a 65-year-old facing mandatory retirement but who remains a productive employee.
   
The WHO official also came out against compulsory, age-defined policies like mandatory retirement, describing them as “problematic”.
   
In seeking a more just definition of what it means to be old, Beard said WHO had begun using the mid-point of life expectancy in each country.
   
That means, for example, in Britain, where life expectancy is 81, anyone over 41 would be defined as “older”, Beard said, voicing hope that this new definition would be “liberating” for those who viewed the onset of their 60s as an ominous benchmark.
   
There are currently an estimated 600 million people worldwide over the age of 60, a figure set to double by 2025 and hit two billion by 2050, according to WHO.
    
Because the survey released on Thursday was the first set of global data on ageism, WHO officials said it was difficult to track how attitudes had shifted over time, but added there was some evidence that ageism was on the rise.

Despite this report, Switzerland is regularly considered a good place to grow old, and life expectancy is the second highest in the world, according to another recent WHO study.

With its good health service, high standard of living, pro-family society and promotion of an active lifestyle, Switzerland frequently tops rankings related to health and aging.

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HEALTH INSURANCE

What isn’t covered by Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance?

Switzerland’s basic health insurance is among the most expensive in the world, but there are certain services it doesn’t pay for. Here are some of the benefits the scheme won’t cover in full.

What isn't covered by Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance?

Basic insurance — KVG in German and LaMal in French and Italian —  is compulsory in Switzerland. It doesn’t come cheap, but it is quite comprehensive and includes coverage for illness, medications, tests, maternity, physical therapy, preventive care, and many other treatments.

It also covers accidents for those who do not have accident insurance through their workplace.

Basically, whatever the doctor orders is covered by KVG / LaMal, at least partially.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about health insurance in Switzerland

However, there are some treatments the basic insurance won’t pay for.

Experimental treatments

Any experimental treatments or drugs — that is, those not approved by the Swissmedic regulatory agency or the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) will not be covered.

This exclusion is not specifically Swiss; insurance schemes is most countries won’t cover unauthorised medical treatment either.

Dental care

In most cases, services such as teeth cleaning, dental fillings, root canals, tooth extractions, and orthodontic braces, are not included under basic insurance.

The only exceptions, according to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), are dental interventions “necessitated by a serious disorder of the masticatory system, or if such treatment is required to support and ensure the success of medical treatment for a severe general disorder (e.g. leukaemia, heart-valve replacement)”.

Most dental treatments are not covered. Photo by Pixabay

Eyeglasses and contact lenses

Compulsory health insurance will contribute up to 180 francs per year towards glasses and contact lenses prescribed by an ophthalmologist for children up to the age of 18.

No such benefit exist for adults. However, “in the case of serious visual impairment or certain illnesses (e.g. disease-related refraction abnormalities, postoperative alterations or corneal disease), compulsory health insurance will, regardless of age, make higher contributions towards medically prescribed spectacle and contact lenses”, FOPH says.

READ MORE: Reader question: Can Swiss health insurance exclude me if I have pre-existing conditions?

Ambulance

Emergency vehicles that transport you to a hospital can be quite expensive — depending on the canton, the costs can range from 900 to 2,000 francs per trip. 

Basic health insurance will contribute a certain amount  to the cost of emergency transportation, but only if it is a medical necessity — a serious accident, an illness, or a life-threatening situation. But if the patient could have travelled by private car or public transport, basic health insurance policies will pay nothing.

Insurance will cover some of the cost of ambulance transport only in emergency. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Private hospital room

While the cost of your hospitalisation will be fully covered, the basic insurance does not pay for a private room.

You will be accommodated in a room with other patients.

Depending on a medical facility — whether it’s a small hospital or a large, university medical centre, you could end up with just one other person or possibly four or five, the latter being common in teaching hospitals.

If you insist on a private accommodation, you will have to pay for it out of your own pocket.

Reader question: Can Swiss health insurance exclude me if I have pre-existing conditions?

Vaccines

Immunisations outlined by FOPH  will be paid for by insurance, as will the Covid vaccine.

Not covered, however, are travel-related vaccinations or preventive measures, such as against yellow fever or malaria.

Treatment abroad

Outside Switzerland, only emergency care is covered  — double the amount that the same treatment would cost in Switzerland.

Usually, basic health insurance will not cover transportation costs back to Switzerland, except in case of emergency, when it will cover 50 percent of the total cost of transportation to the nearest hospital abroad — but no more than 500 francs per year. 

If you only have a basic insurance policy and travel abroad often, especially to the United States, you should take out a travel insurance that will cover you for illness and accidents in foreign countries above and beyond what your Swiss carrier will pay.

And if you want to upgrade your treatment options, consider taking out a supplemental insurance or, if you can afford it, private one.

READ MORE: Should you buy supplemental health insurance in Switzerland?

You can find out more about what KVG / LaMal will and will not cover here.

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