We live longer but not healthier

Posted on 27 August 2020, 8:00

According to Statistics Estonia, in 2019, life expectancy at birth was 74.4 years for males and 82.8 years for females. Life expectancy has increased for both sexes, slightly more for males. Men are expected to live disability-free for 54.1 and women for 57.6 years.

According to Ethel Maasing, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia, the number of healthy life years increased compared to the year before and there was a positive change in rural areas in particular. “Compared to 2018, when the indicator of healthy life years dropped to the level seen a decade earlier, Estonian men and women lived healthier in 2019. Males live 72.7% of their life in good health and females 70%,” added Maasing.

Life expectancy has shown a growth trend for the past twenty years. Last year, female life expectancy increased slightly slower (a third of a year) than male life expectancy (half a year). Male life expectancy has reached the level of female life expectancy in 1995. The gap between female and male life expectancy is smallest (eight years) for people with higher education. 

Compared to a decade ago, male life expectancy has increased by three and a half years and female life expectancy by slightly more than two years. “At that time, it was predicted that women would live almost 10 years longer than men, but by now, the gap has narrowed to eight and a half years. However, both men and women enjoy the same number of healthy life years as ten years earlier. There have been increases and falls over the years, but in the longer term, the indicator has been stable,” explained Maasing.

Life expectancy at birth and healthy life years, 2004–2019

According to 2018 data, the average life expectancy for women in Europe was 83.6 years and for men 78.3 years. Female life expectancy was highest in Spain (86.3) and lowest in Serbia (78.4). Male life expectancy was highest in Switzerland (81.9) and lowest in Latvia (70.1). Compared to the European Union average, the indicator for males in Estonia is lower by more than four years. Life expectancy for females in Estonia is about a year below the European Union average. The indicator of healthy life years for women was highest in Malta (73.4) and lowest in Latvia (53.7), and for men, it was highest in Sweden (73.7) and lowest in Latvia (51). Considering the European Union average, the indicator of healthy life years for males in Estonia is worse than the indicator for females: for males, it is lower by ten years. The indicator for females is eight years below the European average.

Life expectancy depends on many factors, the most important of these being the environment, accessibility of healthcare services, safety at work, living standard and health consciousness. The shorter male life expectancy is not surprising as men are more prone to risk-taking and have a greater share of physically demanding jobs or those posing more risk to health. Among men, there are also more of those who have unhealthy life styles such as higher alcohol consumption and smoking.

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 the information collected with a survey on the extent to which a person has been restricted in activities that people normally do due to a health problem 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 collects and analyses the data.

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