Life expectancy on the rise again in Estonia

Cherry blossoms against the backdrop of the Oleviste kirik (St. Olaf's Church) in Tallinn, May 7, 2023.
Cherry blossoms against the backdrop of the Oleviste kirik (St. Olaf's Church) in Tallinn, May 7, 2023.

In 2022, the average life expectancy in Estonia was 78.1 years: it was 73.6 years for men and 82.3 years for women, indicating that life expectancy is on the rise again after the pandemic years.

Men in Estonia now live in good health for 57.9 years and women for 60.6 years, Statistics Estonia reports.

In 1994, life expectancy was at its lowest in the post-independence period, at 66.5 years.

There was a rising trend from 1995 to 2019, reaching 78.8 years in 2019. This was followed by two pandemic years in which life expectancy fell to 77,2 due to higher mortality rates.

"After a slight decline over the past two years, life expectancy has begun to rise again, and we are returning to pre-pandemic levels," Terje Trasberg, chief analyst at Statistics Estonia, said.

She said that 2022 life expectancy was comparable to 2017, when it was 78.2 years.

Estonians are living longer and healthier

Healthy life expectancy (HLE) is the average number of years that a person can expect to live in full health — that is, not hampered by disabling illnesses or injuries.

Since 2021, the number of healthy years has climbed by 2.7 percent and has never been higher. In 2022, men will live 57.9 years in good health, while women will live 60.6 years.

The gender discrepancy in healthy life years favors women by only 2,7 years. "Although men have a shorter life expectancy than women, a greater proportion of their lives are lived without health limitations," Trasberg explained.

Men have good health for 78.7 percent of their lives, while women have it only 73.6 percent of their lives.

Life expectancy increases among people with higher levels of education

Life expectancy is higher in cities, among Estonians and among people with higher levels of education.

Life expectancy is 81,8 years for people with a higher degree of education, while it is more than ten years shorter for those with basic education (71). Men with a primary education had the lowest life expectancy (67.6).

"The environment, access to health care services, occupational safety, and people's health awareness all have an impact on life expectancy and healthy life years."

Men's life expectancy, according to Trasberg, is estimated to be shorter because they are more vulnerable and frequently engage in physically demanding and health-threatening activities.

Life expectancy was highest in Harju and Tartu counties, 78.7 and 79.2 respectively, and lowest in Ida-Viru and Võru counties, 74.6 and 76 respectively.

Estonian life expectancy reached its highest level since re-independence in 2019, and it was higher across the board. "At the time, Tallinn's life expectancy was 80,3 years, which was close to the European average," Trasberg explained.

Life expectancy below European average in all three Baltic states

In 2021, Europe's average life expectancy was 80,1 years. Life expectancy in Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Spain was 84.4, 83.9, and 83.3, respectively, whereas it was 71.4, 72.8, and 71.4 in Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia.

Latvia and Slovakia suffered the biggest decline due to the pandemic period, each losing 2.4 years, while Estonia lost 1.7 years.

The Baltic states have shorter life expectancy than the rest of Europe, but in a comparison of three countries, Estonia has the highest (77,2), followed by Lithuania (74,2) and Latvia (73).

Life expectancy in neighboring Finland was 8.1 years higher in 2021 than in Estonia, a 4.7-year difference.

When comparing men's and women's life expectancy across Europe, the Baltic states stand out due to the large gender disparity. In Estonia, women will outlive men by 8.7 years, Lithuania by 9.3 years, and Latvia by 9.8 years.

The average difference in life expectancy between men and women in Europe is 5.8 years. In the Netherlands, Norway and Iceland, comparable figures range from 3.33 to 2.80.

In 2021, Malta ranked first in Europe in terms of healthy life years, with 68.7 years. Latvia was ranked last, with a life expectancy of 53.8 years. Estonia ranked second-to-last with 56,5 years.

"A 2.7-year increase in healthy life expectancy and life expectancy and moving slowly but again upwards give reason to hope that by the time all European countries publish their data for 2022, our position relative to European averages will have improved," Trasberg said.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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