Proportion of deaths in hospital in European countries: trends and associations from panel data (2005-2017)

Eur J Public Health. 2021 Dec 1;31(6):1176-1183. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckab169.


Background: End-of-life care attracts major policy interest. Place of death is an important metric of individual experience and health system performance. Most people prefer to die at home, but hospital is the most common place of death in high-income countries. Little is known about international trends in place of death over time.

Methods: We aimed to collate population-level data on place of death in Europe from 2005 to 2017, and to evaluate association with national characteristics and policy choices. We sought data on hospital as the place of death from the 32 European Economic Area countries. We identified national economic, societal, demographic and health system predictors from Eurostat, OECD and the WHO. We analyzed these cross-national panel data using linear regression with panel-corrected standard errors.

Results: Our analytic dataset included 30 countries accounting for over 95% of Europe's population. Average national proportion of deaths occurring in hospital in the study period ranged from 26% to 68%, with a median of 52%. Trends vary markedly by region and wealth, with low and decreasing rate in the North-West, and high and increasing prevalence in the South and East. Controlling for demographic and economic factors, strong palliative care provision and generous government finance of long-term care were associated with fewer hospital deaths.

Conclusions: We found modifiable policy choices associated with hospital mortality, as well as wider structural economic and societal factors. Policymakers can act to reduce the proportion of dying in hospital.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care
  • Palliative Care
  • Terminal Care*