Europe: Northerners Age Better Than Easterners

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Eurostat has classified European countries according to the inhabitants’ life expectancy at 65 and the expected healthy life years, thus giving rankings of European countries by the seniors’ quality of life. Without any surprise, countries with the longest life expectancy also have higher figures for expected healthy life years.

Residual life expectancy and expected life years at age 65, 2013

Eurostat residual life expectancy

Northern Countries: The Longest Expected Healthy Life

Northern European countries, known for their standard of living, are first in the ranking: Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Ireland. Life expectancy at the age of 65 is between 19.1 and 20.1 years. Healthy life years are among the highest with 15.1 years for Iceland and 14.9 years for Norway.

Why is Iceland so high ranked? The island is known for being the country with the lowest crime rate of the OECD and for being very welcoming and calm. There are only 300,000 inhabitants, mainly living on the south coast and in the capital, Reykjavik. The density was 3.1 inhabitants/km² in 2011, one of the world’s lowest. Life expectancy at birth is 82.92 years, one of the highest in Europe. A true El Dorado of peacefulness for seniors.

Expected healthy life at 65 in Finland is the lowest among Northern countries: 8.7. This can be partly explained by the fact that Finland only recently started caring for active seniors. The country has committed itself to reducing hardship at work, to improve job positions and to offer training to seniors. Between 1998 and 2009, the employment rate for those aged 55-64 increased from 35% to 64% and retirement age went from 59 to 62. Expected healthy life should thus increase gradually in the years to come.

Eastern Countries Stand at the Lowest Rank

Warsaw, Poland

Eastern European countries are far behind Northern countries. Life expectancy at the age of 65 is between 16.8 and 19.5, while expected healthy life years are between 3.9 and 8.7. Slovakia ranks the lowest with 3.9 expected healthy life years.

Even if life expectancy is lower there than for the European average, Poland is an ageing country. In order to correct this problem, the OECD advocates the necessary lengthening of the working time. Seniors’ working rate has made good progress, from 36% to 55% between 2003 and 2013. However, this rate remains below the OECD countries’ average (which is 41%).The lengthening of the working time would help avoid small pensions, breaking seniors’ isolation and thus improving living conditions.


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