Warsaw, Poland – Poland’s life expectancy at birth has recorded one of the biggest drops among EU countries last year, according to provisional Eurostat estimates looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While life expectancy at birth has increased throughout Europe over the last decades, 2020 saw a drop in almost every single EU member state as a result of the global health crisis.
Official data show that since the 1960s, life expectancy rose by more than 2 years per decade in Europe, but has recorded slight drops in recent years, even before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Among EU countries, the COVID pandemic led to the biggest drops in life expectancy at birth in Spain (-1.6 years compared to 2019), Bulgaria (-1.5), Poland, Lithuania and Romania (-1.4), as well as Belgium and Italy (-1.2 years).
The Czech Republic (-1 year), Slovakia (-0.9) and Hungary (-0.8) have also seen their life expectancy drop by unprecedented levels in decades.
Cyprus and Latvia saw their life expectancy stagnate, according to preliminary 2020 figures, while EU members Denmark and Finland are the only ones to have seen a small increase last year (+0.1 year).
Pre-pandemic, life expectancy at birth stood at approximately 81 years old in the EU (84 for women, and 77 for men), with Spain, Italy and France recording the highest levels, while the lowest were found in Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania and Lithuania. Life expectancy in all Visegrad countries was slightly lower than the EU average (see graph below).
Europe evidently wasn’t the only region hit by this phenomenon. Preliminary estimates suggest life expectancy dropped, on average, by one year in the United States in the first half of 2020, and by up to 2.4 and 3 years for Hispanic and African-American communities, respectively. Figures for the full year are expected to be much worse, analysts have warned.
Quick reminder: life expectancy is the number of years a person of a certain age (here, at birth) can expect to live if subjected, throughout the rest of his or her life, to the mortality conditions at a selected period of time.