Life expectancy and disability-free life expectancy in Estonia have decreased

According to Statistics Estonia, in 2021, life expectancy at birth was 77.2 years in Estonia; male life expectancy was 72.8 years and female life expectancy was 81.4 years, and life expectancy had decreased for both men and women – men can expect to live disability-free for 54.9 years and women for 58 years.

Marin Tasuja, a leading analyst at Statistics Estonia, the country’s official statistics agency, said that life expectancy increased steadily from 1995 until 2020 but the trend has decelerated in recent years due to the pandemic.

“The exceptionally large number of deaths last year means that life expectancy decreased for both men and women, as it fell to the same level as eight years ago. The decrease in life expectancy has been steeper for men than for women,” she said in a statement.

Nurses taking care of a patient with COVID-19 at the North Estonia Medical Centre in Tallinn. Photo by the North Estonia Medical Centre.

Compared with 2020, life expectancy decreased by a year and seven months for men in Estonia and by a year and four months for women in Estonia, although there are regional variations.

“In urban areas, life expectancy in 2021 fell similarly to the Estonian average, that is, by a year and a half. But life expectancy in rural areas decreased by almost two years. Compared with 2020, there was no decrease in life expectancy for women in Viljandi and Hiiu counties,” Tasuja pointed out.

The more educated live longer

There has also been a decrease in healthy life years. According to 2021 data, men will live disability-free for 54.9 years and women for 58 years.

“Thus, compared with 2020, healthy life years have decreased by seven months for men and by a year and a half for women in Estonia. A comparison of demographic groups indicates that disability-free life expectancy has fallen the most among people with lower education and residents of urban areas,” she noted.

According to the statistics agency, life expectancy depends on many factors.

“The greatest differences occur in the breakdown by education: life expectancy is 81 years for persons with higher education but over ten years less (70.3 years) for persons with basic education. Among counties, life expectancy is the highest in Hiiu and Tartu counties, and the lowest in Ida-Viru and Võru counties. The difference in life expectancy between residents of Hiiu and Ida-Viru counties was 4.5 years. Non-Estonians living in Estonia are expected to live almost two years less than Estonians – 75.6 and 77.5 years, respectively,” the agency said.

Among the three Baltic countries, life expectancy is the highest in Estonia. In 2021, this indicator was 73.1 years in Latvia, which is two years less than in 2020. In Lithuania, life expectancy was 75.1 years in 2020.

Among counties, life expectancy is the highest in Hiiu (picture here, a windmill in Hiiumaa island) and Tartu counties; photo by Magnus Heinmets.

The Swedes live the longest healthy lives in the EU

“That was significantly lower than the year before and, although 2021 data for Lithuania are not yet available, life expectancy has probably decreased further in Lithuania,” Tasuja said.

The average life expectancy in Europe was 80.4 years in 2020 – all three Baltic countries fall below this level.

Among European countries, in 2020, the number of healthy life years was the highest in Sweden (72.7 years for women and 72.8 years for men) and the lowest in Latvia (54.3 years for women and 52.6 years for men). Compared with the European Union average (63.5 years), men in Estonia live eight years less disability-free. The disability-free life expectancy of women in Estonia is five years shorter than the EU average, which is 64.5 years.

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 (ie 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.

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