Country profile

The Republic of Hungary is a parliamentary republic in Central Europe with a population of approximately 10 million inhabitants. Since it became a democracy in 1990, it followed typical patterns of a transition society and economy. Whilst the Hungarian economy has seen consistent growth since 1993 it still struggles with difficulties in terms of unemployment, the low activity rate of the working age population, high deficit in the national budget and growing socioeconomic inequalities in the society. Life expectancy at birth in Hungary was 75.7 years in 2015, up from 71.9 years in 2000. Large gaps exist in life expectancy between men and women, with men living on average nearly seven
years less than women. The gap in life expectancy by socioeconomic status is even larger: Hungarian men with the lowest level of education live on average about nine years less than men with the highest level of education.


Policy responses

The issue of health inequalities has been in the consciousnesses of policy makers in Hungary for the past three decades. Research on health inequalities commenced in the early 1980’s and in 1988 the first Public Health Strategy was published which stated tackling health inequalities as one of its priorities. However, despite the high level of awareness, the overall policy response to the issue remains slow. The new Hungarian Government has declared that health is one of its five key values, however due to the economic crisis the health budget has been severely cut and the focus on current health discussions has been streamlined onto hospitals and care, and the nationalization of Institutions. Health spending per capita is among the lowest across the EU, and only about half the EU average (EUR 1 428 per capita in Hungary compared to the EU average of EUR 2 797). Only two-thirds of health spending in Hungary is publicly funded (compared to nearly
80% across the EU), leaving the system highly reliant on direct out-of-pocket spending.


The Act CIII of 2011 on Public Health Product Tax imposes a tax on the category of “food products non-beneficial to public health”, the revenues raised are spent on programmes and activities focusing public health. Food products affected by the product tax are high in sugar, salt or poly saturated fats and trans fatty acids. Their consumption contibutes to cardiovascular diseases and various types of cancer. The law aims to influence the eating habits of the public, motivate the consumption of healthy foods by the public in positive ways, and reduce the amount of unhealthy foods purchased and consumed. A public impact assessment was conducted one year after the law was enacted. The results confirmed that the supply and trade of unhealthy products decreased. Many food manufacturers have reduced or eliminated unhealthy ingredients in their products and the awareness of healthy eating has increased. Overall, the public consumed less of these harmful products.


An overview of policy responses addressing health inequalities in can be found in our Policy Database.


Good practices

An overview of projects and initiatives that are currently taking place or that have successfully been finalized, and that are addressing health inequality issues, can be found in our Project Database.

Key actors

Please find below an overview of key actors in Hungary working on health inequality issues:

  • Országos Egészségfejlesztési Intézet – National Institute for Health Development (NIHD). The NIHD is a government agency that plans, coordinates, monitors and evaluates public health and health promotion at national level. It works with partial independence under the direct supervision of the National Medical Officer and it cooperates closely with the public health administrative departments in the government offices at county level and in the capital. The global objectives of the NIHD in the Hungarian health system are to improve the health of the Hungarian population, to develop disease prevention and to promote healthy lifestyles. The NIHD performs its tasks of technical development, methodology, research of health development, with special emphasis on tackling inequalities in health.
  • Nemzeti Erőforrás Minisztérium – Ministry of National Resources. The Ministry of National Resources is responsible for the functioning of the national healthcare and welfare system in Hungary, the development of school education from nursery to university, the protection of cultural heritage, the promotion of the interests of children and young people, and the realisation of government aims related to sport.

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Key resources

Please find below an overview of relevant documents addressing health inequality issues in Hungary. Further publications can be found in our Publications Database.

Are you aware of any other key resources that should be added to this list?
Please let us know!

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