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Public Health (09-09-2013)

Health inequalities: Gaps in life expectancy and infant mortality narrow across the EU

The wide variation in life expectancy and infant mortality historically found between EU countries is narrowing, according to a report published today by the European Commission.

  • The gap between the longest and shortest life expectancy found in EU-27 decreased by 17% for men between 2007 and 2011 and 4% for women between 2006 and 2011.
  • The gap in infant mortality between the EU countries with the highest and the lowest rates went down from 15.2 to 7.3/ per1000 live births between 2001 and 2011.
  • Average infant mortality in the EU also fell during this period - from 5.7 to 3.9 per 1000 live births.

The report points to some positive developments in implementing the EU strategy on health inequalities, 'Solidarity in Health', but concludes that more action is needed at local, national and EU levels. More figures on health inequalities revealed in the report:

  • Sweden has the highest life expectancy for males - 79.9 years, and Lithuania the lowest 68.1 years - a difference of nearly 12 years.
  • Life expectancy for women is highest in France - 85.7 years and lowest in Bulgaria - 77.8 years.
  • When it comes to healthy life years in men, there is a difference of 19 years between the lowest and highest values in the EU (2011 figures). For women, this was nearly as high at 18.4 years.
  • In 2010, the gap between life expectancy at birth between most and least advantaged regions in the EU was 13.4 years for men and 10.6 years for women.
  • In the same year, there were seven EU regions with infant mortality rates greater than 10 per 1000 live births. This is more than 2.5 the EU average of 4.1/1000.
  • In 2010, the estimated gap in life expectancy at age 30 for males between the least and the most educated varied from around three years up to 17 years in different Member States. For females the gap was slightly smaller, varying from 1 to 9 years.

To read the full report and find out more about EU action to address health inequalities:

Commissioner Borg's website: