Western European comparison: People in Germany live shorter lives

As of: May 22, 2024 1:58 p.m

On average, people in Germany live 1.7 years shorter than in other Western European countries. Among other things, experts see a need to catch up in the prevention and early detection of cardiovascular diseases.

Germany is one of the worst performers in Western Europe when it comes to life expectancy – and continues to fall behind. The gap between Germany and other Western European countries has grown steadily over the past two decades, as a study by the Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB) and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research shows.

The gap in average life expectancy has increased from 0.7 years in 2000 to 1.7 years in 2022. “The beginning of the 2000s marks a turning point in the dynamics of mortality development in Germany,” said the study’s co-author, Pavel Grigoriev, from BiB. Since then, the mortality gap between Germany and other Western European countries has “increased relatively steadily.”

A spokesman for the BiB told the Evangelical Press Service that people in Switzerland have the highest life expectancy at 83.5 years. Spain follows with an average life expectancy of 83.2 years, while in Germany it is 80.5 years.

New federal states are reducing the distance

According to BiB, the federal states of the former GDR were able to significantly reduce the gap compared to the rest of Germany after reunification and financial investments in medical care.

Since the turn of the millennium, however, both West and East Germany have lost ground compared to the other countries in Western Europe. While the gap in men’s life expectancy was around 0.7 years in 2000, this gap increased to 1.8 years by 2022. For women, the gap in life expectancy increased from 0.7 years in 2000 to 1.4 years currently.

Only in the first pandemic year of 2020 was there a short-term approximation to the Western European average for both genders, because significantly fewer people initially died of Covid-19 in Germany.

Differences in individual age groups

However, mortality differs in the individual age groups. While the mortality rate for people under 50 in Germany is on average in Western Europe, it is significantly higher for the population over 65 years of age.

Among women in Germany, it is primarily those over 75 years of age who have a higher mortality rate than their peers in other countries. Among men, there is a gap, particularly between the ages of 55 and 74.

Need to catch up on prevention and early detection

“In order to reduce Germany’s gap in life expectancy, mortality would have to be reduced, especially in old age,” said Sebastian Klüsener, research director at the BiB. Researchers see a need for action to increase life expectancy in Germany, especially in the case of cardiovascular diseases.

International comparisons therefore indicate a need to catch up in the prevention and early detection of these diseases. The same applies to tobacco and alcohol prevention as well as healthy nutrition. “There is still a lot of potential here to better prepare us for the current aging process in society,” said Klüsener.

The study compared data from a total of 15 countries in Western Europe, including Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Great Britain and Finland.

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