Estonian residents' life expectancy hit all-time high in 2023

Estonian residents' life expectancy hit all-time high in 2023.
Estonian residents' life expectancy hit all-time high in 2023. Photo: Sander Ilvest

The average life expectancy at birth was 79 years in Estonia in 2023, the highest such figure ever recorded and higher than in the other two Baltic countries, Statistics Estonia said on Tuesday.

At the same time, there was a slight decrease in healthy life years.

«Life expectancy decreased during the coronavirus pandemic but is now rising again and has already surpassed the 2019 level,» said Eveli Voolens, social statistics team lead at Statistics Estonia.

Life expectancy in Estonia is still below the European average, which is 81.5 years, based on preliminary data.

«Among the Baltic countries, Estonia has the highest life expectancy: it is 79 years in Estonia, 77.3 years in Lithuania, and 75.9 years in Latvia,» Voolens said. However, in neighboring Finland, life expectancy is much higher than in Estonia at 81.7 years. In Europe, life expectancy is the highest in Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Spain -- a little over 84 years.

It is the lowest in Bulgaria and Latvia, where life expectancy remains below 76 years.

Looking at countries across Europe, the Baltic countries are notable for a big difference in male and female life expectancies. In Estonia, life expectancy is 83.1 years for women and 74.5 years for men, the team lead said.

Data for 2023 show than Estonian residents have 58 healthy life years. Compared with 2022, the number of healthy life years has decreased by 1.2 years. Men live disability-free for 56.4 years and women for 59.5 years. Year on year, the number of healthy life years has fallen slightly for both males and females.

«Based on these data, men have a lower life expectancy but they live a greater share of their life in good health. Healthy life years make up 75.7 percent of male life expectancy. For females, healthy life years constitute 71.6 percent of their life expectancy,» said Voolens.

The data also indicate that the number of healthy life years is higher in urban areas. However, in 2023, the difference between regions was the smallest of the last five years. People in urban settlements live disability-free for 1.51 years more than people in rural settlements.

Life expectancy for ethnic Estonians, 79.6 years, is slightly higher than for non-Estonians, 78.4 years, but this difference has narrowed in recent years.

Life expectancy also correlates with educational attainment. Women with higher education have a life expectancy of 86 years, while men with basic education can expect to live 68.3 years. The trend is the same for healthy life years: people with higher education have more healthy life years than people with basic or upper secondary education. Based on 2023 data, the expected number of healthy life years was 61.81 years for people with higher education and 48.6 years for those with basic education.

Regionally, life expectancy is the highest in Tartu and Harju counties where it was, respectively, 80.1 and 79.8 years. Tartu county is currently the only area where life expectancy is over 80 years. In 2019 and 2020, life expectancy in Harju county and Tallinn was also over 80 years, but their indicators have now fallen under 80, said Voolens. East-Viru county has the lowest life expectancy at 75.8 years.

Life expectancy at birth is defined as the mean number of years that a newborn child is expected to live if subjected throughout their life to current mortality conditions.

Healthy life years, or disability-free life expectancy, 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.

The 2023 estimates for other European countries are preliminary and can be found in the Eurostat database.