Life expectancy figures illustrate inequality in Switzerland

Swiss life expectancy is on the rise, but your level of education is becoming the dominant factor in how long you live - and your quality of life.

Life expectancy figures illustrate inequality in Switzerland
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That’s according to a new report from the University of Geneva, which shows that individuals in Switzerland with lower levels of education are living shorter lives and doing so in poorer health. 

The report argues that more should be done to reduce inequality in Switzerland, by removing barriers to education as well as making preventative medical care more accessible. 

Swiss residents from lower socio-economic groups are less likely to visit the doctor for regular check ups, increasing their risk of contracting preventable health conditions. 

From 1990 to 2015 the life expectancy of men in Switzerland rose from 78 to 82 – and from 83 to 86 for women. But for men who have only finished compulsory high school education, there was no such increase – with life expectancy stagnating at 73 years. 

READ: New report highlights shortcomings in Swiss medical care

Men who have received some form of training or further education saw their life expectancy increase to 78 years, while university-educated men have a life expectancy of 81 years – indicating that the gap is widening. 

“The difference in years spent in good health between men with compulsory education and men with tertiary education is 7.6 in 1990, but 8.8 years in 2010, showing that the gap is widening,” the authors noted. 

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There were similar gaps for women, although the gap is shorter – women with basic educational attainment have a life expectancy of 79, while those with a tertiary education have a life expectancy of 84. 

The authors noted that a major reason for a lower gap among women was that older women were less likely to have attained a university education – something which is changing in new generations. 

“The gap between women with secondary and tertiary education is indistinguishable here because our data covers women born in the years 1920-1930, when access to higher education was restricted and few women worked,” said Stéphane Cullati, one of the authors of the report. 

“It would be interesting to repeat this survey in 50 years, now that women study and work just as much as men

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Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad