Mortality and life expectancy statistics
Data extracted in May 2021
Planned article update: May 2022
Life expectancy at birth, EU, 2002-2019
Life expectancy at birth rose rapidly during the last century due to a number of factors, including reductions in infant mortality, rising living standards, improved lifestyles and better education, as well as advances in healthcare and medicine. Official statistics reveal that life expectancy has risen, on average, by more than two years per decade since the 1960s. However, the latest available data suggest that life expectancy stagnated or even declined in the majority of EU Member States. Based on the available, provisional mortality data for 2020, Eurostat calculated estimates on the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on life expectancy.
Number of deaths
In 2019, 4 653 033 persons died in the EU, compared with 4 693 576 in 2018. The annual number of deaths presents a slight decrease (see Figure 1). The crude death rate, which is the number of deaths per 1 000 persons, was estimated at 10.4 in the EU in 2019, 0.1 less than in 2018.
Life expectancy at birth
The most commonly used indicator for analysing mortality is life expectancy at birth: the mean number of years that a person can expect to live at birth if subjected to current mortality conditions throughout the rest of their life. It is a simple but powerful way of illustrating the developments in mortality.
Life expectancy at birth in the EU was estimated at 81.3 years in 2019 (0.3 years higher than in 2018), reaching 84 years for women (0.3 higher than in 2018) and 78.5 years for men (also 0.3 year higher than in 2018).
Overall, between 2002 (the first year for which life expectancy data became available for all EU Member States) and 2019, life expectancy at birth in the EU increased by 3.6 years, from 77.6 to 81.3 years; the increase was by 3.1 years for women and 4.2 years for men.
However, estimations made by Eurostat based on the available 2020 data suggest that in most Member States there was a significant decrease in life expectancy in 2020 (see Table 1 and Table 2). The largest decreases were recorded in Spain (-1.6 years compared with 2019) and Bulgaria (-1.5), followed by Lithuania, Poland and Romania (all -1.4).
Table 1 shows that while in 2019 life expectancy increased in 25 EU Member States compared to the previous year (exceptions being Greece and Cyprus), in 2020 life expectancy decreased by more than 1 year in 9 Member States (Spain, -1.6 years, Bulgaria -1.5, Lithuania, Poland, Romania -1.4, Belgium, Italy -1.2, Czechia, Slovenia -1), and decreased by less than 1 year or stagnated in the rest, with Finland and Denmark registering a slight (0.1 years) increase (data not available for Ireland).
According to Table 1, in 2020 life expectancy also decreased in all the EFTA countries, except for Norway.
Across the EU regions, in 2019, life expectancy at birth was highest in central and northern Italy (Trento, Bolzano, Umbria, Marche), as well as in the Central Spanish region of Madrid (Comunidad de Madrid) and the Northern Spanish region of Navarra (Comunidad Foral de Navarra). These regions often recorded among the highest life expectancy estimates. (Data is not available yet for 2020.)
Life expectancy at age 65
As seen in Table 2, life expectancy showed a small increase in 2019 compared to 2018 also at age 65. In 2019, life expectancy at 65 was estimated at 20.2 years (0.2 years higher than in the year before), reaching 21.8 years for women (0.2 years higher than 2018) and 18.3 years for men (0.2 years higher than 2018). In 2020 life expectancy at age 65 recorded a significant drop in most EU Member States. There was a decrease of -1.5 years in Poland and Spain, -1.3 years in Belgium, -1.2 years in Italy, Romania and Slovenia and -1.1 years in Bulgaria, Czechia, Lithuania (see Table 2).
Among the EFTA countries, in 2020 Switzerland and Liechtenstein also recorded a drop in life expectancy at age 65, however Iceland and Norway registered a small increase. In 2020, life expectancy of men at age 65 ranged from 18.2 years in Liechtenstein to 20.2 years in Iceland, while the life expectancy for women aged 65 varied from a minimum of 21.6 years in Liechtenstein to a maximum of 22.3 years in Switzerland.
Looking at the regional level, in 2019 the regions in Southern France and North of Spain recorded the highest life expectancy at age 65. (Data is not available yet for 2020.)
Gender gap in life expectancy
There are still major differences between countries when looking at men and women's life expectancies. In 2020, life expectancy for women is still higher than the life expectancy for men. With a gender gap of 5.5 years in 2019, newly born females in the EU should generally expect to outlive men. Furthermore, this gap varied substantially between EU Member States. In 2020, the largest difference between the sexes was found in Lithuania (9.9 years) and the smallest in the Netherlands (3.3 years) — see Figure 3.
Regarding the decreases in life expectancy for 2020, men were slightly more affected in the majority of the EU Member States with available 2020 data, with the largest decreases in life expectancy recorded in Bulgaria (-1.7 years), Lithuania and Poland (both -1.5 years) as well as Spain and Romania (both -1.4 years).
In 2020, as in previous years EFTA countries recorded differences below the EU average between life expectancy at birth for men and women, ranging from 4.1 years in Switzerland to 2.8 in Iceland. In the candidate countries, differences between life expectancy at birth for men and women ranged between 5.5 years in Montenegro and 3.1 in Albania.
When looking at life expectancy at age 65 it can be observed that the gap between the sexes is smaller than the gap at birth. In 2019 women aged 65 in the EU should generally expect to outlive men by 3.5 years. The largest difference between the sexes in 2020 was found in Lithuania (5.5 years) and the smallest in both Cyprus and Sweden (2.5 years) — see Figure 4 .
Figure 4 shows that in 2020 women aged 65 in the EFTA countries expected to outlive men from a minimum of 1.8 years in Iceland to a maximum of 3.4 years in Liechtenstein. Within the candidate countries, in 2019 (the latest available data) the highest gap in life expectancy at age 65 between sexes was registered in Turkey (3.4 years) and the lowest was in Albania (1.2 years).
Around 14 100 children died before reaching one year of age in the EU in 2019 (524 less than in the previous year); this was equivalent to an infant mortality rate of 3.4 deaths per 1 000 live births.
One of the most significant changes that has led to increases in life expectancy at birth has been the decrease in infant mortality rates. During the 10 years from 2009 to 2019, the infant mortality rate in the EU fell from 4.2 deaths per 1 000 live births to 3.4 deaths per 1 000 live births; extending the analysis to the last 20 years, the infant mortality rate was almost halved (6.2 deaths per 1 000 in 1999). The most significant reductions in infant mortality were generally recorded within those EU Member States which tended to record higher levels of infant mortality in earlier years, compared with the EU average.
In 2019, the highest infant mortality rates in the EU were registered in Malta (6.7 deaths per 1 000 live births), Romania (5.8 deaths per 1 000 live births) and Bulgaria (5.6 deaths per 1 000 live births), and the lowest were recorded in Estonia (1.6 deaths per 1 000 live births) and Slovenia, Finland and Sweden (each 2.1 deaths per 1 000 live births).
In 2019, in the EFTA countries the infant mortality rates ranged from a minimum of 0 deaths per 1 000 live births in Lichtenstein (this very low value is influenced by the small population number of the country) to a maximum of 3.3 deaths per 1 000 live births in Switzerland.
In 2019, the candidate countries registered infant mortality rates ranging from a minimum of 2.4 deaths per 1 000 live births in Montenegro to a maximum of 10.3 deaths per 1 000 live births in Albania.
Source data for tables and graphs
Eurostat provides information on a wide range of demographic data, including statistics on the number of deaths by sex, by age, by year of birth, as well as according to citizenship, country of birth and educational attainment; statistics are also collected for infant mortality and late foetal deaths. A series of mortality indicators are produced, which may be used to derive a range of information on subjects such as crude death rates or life expectancy measures by age, sex or educational attainment.
The gradual increase in life expectancy in the EU is one of the contributing factors to the ageing of the EU population — alongside relatively low levels of fertility that have persisted for decades (see the articles on population structure and ageing and fertility statistics).
The EU has been going through a period of demographic and societal change. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic will leave a lasting impact on the way we live and work together. The outbreak came at a time when Europe had already been going through a period of profound demographic and societal change. More information of the work of the European Commission 2019-2024 to tackle the impact of demographic change in Europe can be found in the European Commission dedicated pages.
- Mortality (t_demo_mor), see:
- Life expectancy at birth by sex (tps00205)
- Life expectancy at age 65, by sex (tps00026)
- Infant mortality rate (tps00027)
- Deaths by NUTS 2 region (tgs00098)
- Life expectancy at birth by sex and NUTS 2 region (tgs00101)
- Infant mortality rate (tps00027)
- Mortality (ESMS metadata file - demo_mor_esms)