Life expectancy and health

​The average life expectancy of Estonian people, especially men, is considerably shorter than in most European Union countries. Within the European Union, the average life expectancy of men is shorter only in the nearby countries of Latvia and Lithuania. Estonia is also characterised by a large gap in the average life expectancy between the sexes. On the whole, women live 12 years longer than men. Such a considerable difference is primarily the result of the high mortality level of relatively young men due to external causes of death (accidents, murders and suicides). However, the mortality rate of young Estonian men is also higher than the European average for other reasons. In 2008, the average Estonian woman lived to 79.2 years and the average man to 68.6.

​The main causes of death in Estonia include diseases of the circulatory organs (58%), malign tumours (16%) and external causes of death (13%). Mortality caused by the latter is the dominant factor until age 40. Dying of tumours increases after age 40 both among men and women. A large number of illnesses are caused by insufficient physical exercise, smoking and drinking. Men increasingly die of cancer of the respiratory system and lung cancer. According to health research carried out in 2006, 41% of Estonian men and 20% of women smoked every day, and 7% smoked occasionally. The mortality rate is also clearly linked with alcohol.  During the last decade, the number of working-age men dying of alcohol abuse has doubled. The most frequent external causes of death are suicides and road accidents. In the level of the mortality rate caused by alcohol, Estonia can be compared with Lithuania, Scotland, eastern Germany, northern France, Bulgaria and Hungary.

​In addition to mortality rate, another significant factor is the number of years that people live without limitations induced by illnesses. Estonian men and women enjoy considerably fewer healthy years than the European average. In 2005, the average Estonian woman’s healthy life expectancy was 52 years (the EU average was 66) and for men 48 years (EU average 65). Illnesses thus assail Estonians at a relatively early age.

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