Back Life expectancy continued to decrease in 2021 in the EU


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Life expectancy at birth has been increasing over the past decade in the EU with official statistics revealing 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 stalled or even declined in several EU Member States. Some Member States (mostly in Western Europe) saw their life expectancy rebound towards pre-COVID levels, while others (mostly in Eastern Europe) suffered the impact of the pandemic later and fully in 2021, therefore any rebound is yet to be reflected in the data. 

According to preliminary 2021 data, the COVID-19 pandemic that started in 2020 has had a negative effect with life expectancy at birth declining in almost half the EU Member States in 2021. The largest decreases have been estimated in Slovakia and Bulgaria (-2.2 years compared with 2020), followed by Latvia (-2.1) and Estonia (-2.0). 
Compared with the pre-pandemic year of 2019, the overall effect on life expectancies is still negative in all EU Member States except Luxembourg (+0.1), Malta and Sweden (same level in 2019 and 2021). In some cases, life expectancies have further worsened in 2021, leading to an estimated overall loss of more than 2 years. The largest decreases compared with 2019 were registered in Bulgaria (-3.7), Slovakia (-3.0), and Romania (-2.7). 

This information comes from provisional estimates on life expectancy published yesterday. 

Infographic: Life expectancy in the EU and EFTA countries (change in years 2021 compared with 2020)

Source dataset: demo_mlexpec

For more information:

Methodological note:

  • Life expectancy at birth is the average number of years that a newborn child would live if subjected to current mortality conditions (the death rates observed for the current period) throughout the rest of their life.
  • It should be kept in mind, however, that life expectancy is a period indicator of mortality, indicating the average life span in a population subject to the mortality rates of the selected period of time. This means that the life span estimated above would apply if the mortality conditions observed in 2021, including the COVID-19 pandemic, will last for all the following years until the extinction of the cohort born in 2021. For more information, you can read the technical note (zip file).
  • These life expectancies are provisional estimates from weekly deaths data (see the technical note). Ireland: data not available. 

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