Statistics Estonia – Estonian Residents live longer and in better health
Text Mark Taylor Photo Andrei Chertkov
According to data released by 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 on average and women for 60.6 years.
In the period since the Restoration of independence in 1991, life expectancy increased steadily until 2019, reaching 78.8 years by 2019. Over the next two years, life expectancy dropped to the level in 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, returning to pre-pandemic levels. 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 the period 1990-2009, male life expectancy was over ten years shorter than for women. The life expectancy of men in Estonia has now reached the level of women in 1993.
Estonian Residents live more years free of disability
Compared with 2021, disability-free life expectancy increased by 2.7 years, reaching a record high. 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 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 per cent and women for 73.6 per cent of their lives.
People with higher educational attainment have 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 men is to be expected, considering that they are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors and to have physically demanding and hazardous jobs,” explained Trasberg.
Regionally, life expectancy was the highest in Tartumaa (79.2) and Harjumaa (78.7), and the lowest in Ida-Virumaa (74.6) and Võrumaa (76). 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). It decreased by 1.7 years in Estonia.
All three Baltic countries have a life expectancy below the European average. Of these, Estonia had the highest life expectancy (77.2), followed by Lithuania (74.2) and Latvia (73.1). In neighboring Finland, life expectancy was 81.9 years in 2021, which is 4.7 years more than in Estonia.
When compared with the rest of Europe, 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 only 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 becomes available for all European countries,” concluded Trasberg.