Growth in life expectancy has slowed down, but Estonian people live a longer healthy life

Posted on 25 August 2021, 8:00

According to Statistics Estonia, in 2020, life expectancy at birth for Estonian inhabitants was 78.8 years. Male life expectancy was 74.4 years and female life expectancy was 82.8 years for the second year in a row. Men are expected to live disability-free for 55.5 years and women for 59.5 years.

Compared to the statistics published last year, men in Estonia live a healthy life for a year and five months longer. Healthy life years for women have increased by a year and 11 months.

Life expectancy and healthy life years, 1989–2020

According to Ethel Maasing, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia, life expectancy has shown a growth trend since 1995, but there was a slight decrease in 2020 (by 0.07%) “The growth in life expectancy was slowed by the somewhat higher mortality last year compared to the last ten years. This is still a minimal change and only concerns the life expectancy of men. Women’s life expectancy stayed at the same level as in 2019,” said Maasing.

The indicator of disability-free life expectancy has overall remained stable. After a small drop in 2018, a growth in disability-free life expectancy can be noted. In 2020, the growth occurred primarily among persons of Estonian ethnic nationality and those living in urban areas.

Women in Estonia still live significantly longer than men, but the gap has narrowed over the years. While in 1995, women lived for 12.8 years longer than men, in 2020, the indicator fell by four years, and is currently at 8.4 years. “Male life expectancy in Estonia has now reached the level of female life expectancy in 1995. However, the gender gap is considerably smaller in the case of healthy life years just four years in the favour of women. This means that the life expectancy of men is shorter, but the share of time lived without activity limitations is greater than for women,” explained Maasing.

Life expectancy depends on many factors. The greatest differences occur in the breakdown by education: life expectancy of persons with higher education is 82.2 years, while it is 72.9 years for persons with basic education. By counties, the longest life expectancy is in Hiiu and Harju counties, and the shortest in Ida-Viru and Võru counties. Non-Estonians living in Estonia are expected to live a somewhat shorter life, respectively 77.4 and 78.9 years.

In comparison of the Baltic countries, life expectancy is highest in Estonia. In 2020, the indicator was 75.1 years in both Latvia and Lithuania, and it also fell last year in both countries: in Latvia, by 0.5 years, and in Lithuania, by 1.3 years. At the same time, the average life expectancy in Europe in 2019 was 81.3 years all three Baltic countries fall below this level. In neighbouring Finland, life expectancy is 82.2 years, which is 3.4 years more than in Estonia.

In Europe in 2019, the indicator for women was highest in Malta (73.5 years) and lowest in Latvia (54.1 years), and for males, it was highest in Sweden (73.8 years) and lowest in Latvia (52.2 years). “Compared to the European Union average, the indicator is worse for men than for women living in Estonia: men’s disability-free life expectancy is ten years shorter and women’s indicator is seven years below the EU average,” added Maasing.


Life expectancy at birth is defined as the mean number of years that a new-born child is expected to live if subjected throughout his life to the current mortality conditions. Disability-free life expectancy 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.

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

See also the theme page of the population projection on the website of Statistics Estonia.

More detailed data have been published in the statistical database.

For further information:

Kadri Kütt
Media Relations Manager

Marketing and Dissemination Department
Statistics Estonia
Tel +372 625 9181

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