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Health care systems in transition: Hungary

Gaál P.
Edited by Riesberg A. Copenhagen, WHO Regional Office for Europe on behalf of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies



Hungary is located in the Carpathian basin in central Europe. The country covers a territory of 93 000 km2 (1% of the size of Europe), more than half of which is lowlands surrounded by mountain ridges and hills. The Danube and Tisza rivers, and Lake Balaton, the biggest freshwater lake in central Europe, are the country’s main sources of water (1). Its neighbours are Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Montenegro as well as Croatia to the south, and Slovenia and Austria to the west. Hungary had 10.2 million inhabitants in January 2003 with about 99% holding Hungarian citizenship (1,53). Approximately 5 million Hungarians live outside the current borders of the country. A small share of them left the country during several waves of emigration, such as after the world wars, and after the 1956 revolution against communist rule.
In 2001, 3.1% of the population considered themselves members of a national minority in Hungary. The largest ethnic minority group, the Roma or Gypsy community, numbered 190 000 (1), but estimates of other sources are two to three times higher than of the population census (7). In 2001, 89% of the population revealed its religious affiliation, of which 58.2% considered themselves Roman Catholic, 17.8% Calvinist, 3.4% Lutheran, 3.0% Greek Catholic and 17.7% had another or no religious denomination (1). The official language, Magyar (Hungarian) is part of the Finno-Ugric language group. With respect to demographic trends, the population in Hungary has been decreasing since the 1980s, mainly because the birth rate has been below the mortality rate since 1981 (1). The population is ageing as the share of the elderly, aged 65 or over, has been increasing steadily, accompanied by a decrease in the share of 14-year olds and...

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