Estonian residents live more years in good health

Posted on 28 June 2023, 8:00

According to Statistics Estonia, in 2022, life expectancy at birth was 78.1 years in Estonia. Male life expectancy was 73.6 years and female life expectancy was 82.3 years. Men live disability-free for 57.9 years and women for 60.6 years.

In the period since the restoration of independence in 1991, life expectancy was the lowest in 1994 – 66.5 years. Life expectancy increased steadily from 1995 until 2019, reaching 78.8 years in 2019. Over the next two years, life expectancy dropped to the level of 2014 (77.2) due to high mortality during the pandemic.

“Following the slight decline in the two preceding years, life expectancy is on the rise again and has returned to the pre-pandemic level. Life expectancy in 2022 was similar to life expectancy in 2017, when it was 78.2 years,” said Terje Trasberg, a leading analyst at Statistics Estonia.

Women can expect to live 8.7 years longer than men. “In 1990–2009, male life expectancy was over ten years shorter than female life expectancy. Since 2010, the gap has narrowed and was 8.4 years in 2019,” noted Trasberg. The life expectancy of men in Estonia has now reached the level of female life expectancy in 1993.

Life expectancy and healthy life years, 2004–2022

Estonian residents live more years free of disability 

Compared with 2021, disability-free life expectancy increased by 2.7 years and was the highest ever. Based on 2022 data, men have 57.9 and women 60.6 healthy life years. “The difference in the healthy life years of men and women is smaller than the difference in their life expectancies – just 2.7 years in the favour of women. Thus, men have a lower life expectancy but they live a greater share of their life without limitations to everyday activities,” said Trasberg. Men live disability-free for 78.7% and women for 73.6% of their life.

People with higher educational attainment have a longer life expectancy

Life expectancy is longer in city regions, among Estonians and among the population with higher educational attainment. The greatest variation occurs by education – life expectancy is 81.8 years for persons with higher education but over ten years less (71 years) for persons with basic education. Life expectancy is especially low among men with basic education (67.6 years). “Both life expectancy and healthy life years are influenced by the surrounding environment, access to health care services, occupational safety, and general health awareness. The shorter life expectancy for males is to be expected, considering that men are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviours and to have physically demanding and hazardous jobs,” explained Trasberg.

Regionally, life expectancy was the highest in Tartu (79.2) and Harju (78.7) counties, and the lowest in Ida-Viru (74.6) and Võru (76) counties. In 2019, when life expectancy in Estonia was the highest since the restoration of independence, it was also higher than now in all counties. “In 2019, life expectancy in Tallinn city was 80.3 years, which is close to the European average,” noted Trasberg.

Life expectancy is below the European average in all three Baltic countries

Based on 2021 data*, the average life expectancy in Europe was 80.1 years. Life expectancy was the highest in Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Spain (respectively 84.4, 83.9 and 83.3), and the lowest in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia (respectively 71.4, 72.8 and 72.8).

Similarly to Estonia, life expectancy decreased in 2021 in roughly half of the European countries. The biggest decline occurred in Latvia and Slovakia (–2.4 years in both countries; –1.7 years in Estonia).

All three Baltic countries have a life expectancy below the European average. Of these three, Estonia had the highest life expectancy (77.2), followed by Lithuania (74.2) and Latvia (73.1). In neighbouring Finland, life expectancy was 81.9 years in 2021, which is 4.7 years more than in Estonia.

In the European comparison, the Baltic countries are notable for the big difference in male and female life expectancies. Compared to men, women live 8.7 years longer in Estonia, 9.3 years longer in Lithuania and 9.8 years longer in Latvia. The average difference between male and female life expectancies in Europe is 5.7 years. In the Netherlands, Norway and Iceland, the difference is between 2.8 and 3.3 years.

In 2021, Malta was the European country with the highest disability-free life expectancy (68.7 years). Latvia ranked last with an average of 53.8 healthy life years. In 2021, Estonia ranked second to last with 56.5 healthy life years.

“As disability-free life expectancy has increased by 2.7 years and life expectancy has also shown a slow uptrend again, there is reason to hope that our position compared with the European average indicators will improve, once 2022 data become available for all European countries,” concluded Trasberg.

*2022 data are not yet available for all European countries. 2021 data are published in the Eurostat database.

*The 2021 data on disability-free life expectancy are available in the Eurostat database.

Life expectancy at birth is defined as the mean number of years that a new-born child is expected to live if subjected throughout their life to current mortality conditions. Disability-free life expectancy (i.e. healthy life years) is defined as the mean number of years that a person is expected to live without limitations to everyday activities if subjected to current mortality and public health conditions.

A component for calculating this indicator is survey information on the extent to which a person has been restricted because of a health problem in activities that people normally do during at least the last six months. Only responses where a person said that he or she has not had any health-related limitations are taken into consideration.

The main representative of public interest for the statistical actions “Population” and “Estonian Social Survey” is the Ministry of Social Affairs, commissioned by whom Statistics Estonia analyses the data.

See also the population projection on our website.

More detailed data have been published in the statistical database.

For further information:

Vahur Koorits
Communications Partner
Marketing and Dissemination Department
Statistics Estonia
Tel +372 625 9204
press [at] (press[at]stat[dot]ee)


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