Eurostat study: length of hospital stays getting shorter

However, average length of inpatient hospital stays varies widely within Europe.

SJS/MS – 01/2019

In a comparison of European countries, the average length of a hospital stay for inpatients was between 5 and 10 days. The figure dropped between 2011 and 2016 in most countries. These are the some of the results from EUROSTAT’s most recent survey for 2016. However, the study also reveals other interesting differences in hospital stays.

Length of hospital stay

The longest inpatient stays were in the Czech Republic (9.6 days), followed by Croatia (9.3 days) and France (9.1 days). In Germany, patients spent an average of 9.0 days in hospital. Germany ranks fourth in the European comparison. This is twice as long as the Netherlands with 4.5 days. In Bulgarian hospitals patients only stay for an average of 5.3 days. When comparing the average length of stay in 2016 to 2011, the majority of countries saw a decrease in the length of inpatient stays.

By age group, the average length of hospital stay was shortest for children aged 1 to 9 years. Across Europe, the highest averages were found among people aged 85 and over. The exceptions were Germany and Denmark, where the longest average length of stay was for people aged between 45 and 59 years old.

The survey also provided information on length of stay by diagnosis. In all countries, the average duration of hospital stays for patients with mental and behavioural disorders was the longest, with Malta and the Czech Republic having the longest length of stays of more than 40 days. In Germany, this diagnosis also resulted in the longest stay with 25.1 days. The most common primary diagnosis in almost all EU Member States was circulatory diseases.

Critical appraisal

The study does not provide any information on what conclusions can be drawn from the relationship between length of stay and the quality of care. However, it does provide information on hospital discharges for inpatients, such as discharge rates, and provides analyses by age, gender and diagnosis. These in turn can be used as an indicator of health activities in hospitals, in the form of treatments or therapies. The validity of the data for country-specific characteristics is limited, in particular because of the national statistics of each country, as the data does not always cover all hospitals, treatments or patient types.