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Mortality and life expectancy statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from October 2012. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article provides information relating to mortality in the European Union (EU). Life expectancy at birth rose rapidly during the last century due to a number of factors, including reductions in infant mortality, rising living standards, improved lifestyles and better education, as well as advances in healthcare and medicine.

Figure 1: Number of deaths, EU-27, 1961-2011 (1)
(million) - Source: Eurostat (demo_gind)
Figure 2: Life expectancy at birth, EU-27, 2002-2009
(years) - Source: Eurostat (demo_mlexpec)
Table 1: Life expectancy at birth, 1980-2011
(years) - Source: Eurostat (demo_mlexpec)
Figure 3: Life expectancy at birth, gender gap, 2011
(years, female life expectancy - male life expectancy) - Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_ind_r2)
Table 2: Life expectancy at age 65, 1980-2011
(years) - Source: Eurostat (demo_mlexpec)
Figure 4: Life expectancy at age 65, 2011
(years) - Source: Eurostat (demo_mlexpec)
Figure 5: Infant mortality, 1996 and 2011
(deaths per 1 000 live births) - Source: Eurostat (demo_minfind)

Main statistical findings

In 2011, some 4.8 million persons died in the EU-27 – this was broadly in line with the annual number of deaths recorded over the previous four decades. The crude death rate (the number of deaths per 1 000 inhabitants) was 9.6.

Life expectancy is increasing

The most commonly used indicator for analysing mortality is that of life expectancy at birth (the mean number of years that a person can expect to live at birth if subjected throughout the rest of his or her life to current mortality conditions). Life expectancy in the EU-27 is generally higher than in most other regions of the world. Life expectancy at birth in the EU-27 averaged 79.7 years in 2009, reaching 82.6 years for women and 76.7 years for men. Improvements in living standards and the establishment and improvement in health systems across Europe have led to a continuous increase in life expectancy at birth. Indeed, life expectancy at birth in the EU has increased over the last 50 years by about ten years. This indicator is only available from 2002 to 2009 for the EU-27 as a whole, however, even in this relatively short period of seven years there was an increase in life expectancy of 1.7 years for women and 2.1 years for men (see Figure 2).

Significant differences in life expectancy at birth are nevertheless observed between the EU Member States. Looking at the extremes of the ranges (2011 data for the majority of countries), a woman born in 2011 is expected to live between 77.8 years (Bulgaria) and 85.4 years (Spain), a range of 7.6 years. A man born in 2011 can be expected to live between 68.1 years (Lithuania) and 79.9 years (Sweden), a range of 11.8 years.

The gender gap is shrinking

With a gender gap of 5.9 years of life in 2009, women generally outlive men in the EU-27. However, the gap between male and female life expectancies at birth varied substantially between EU Member States. In 2011, the largest difference between the sexes was found in Lithuania (11.2 years) and the smallest in Cyprus and the Netherlands (both 3.8 years) – see Figure 3.

Infant mortality

Almost 22 000 children died before reaching one year of age in the EU-27 in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available. The infant mortality rate was 4.1 deaths per 1 000 live births.

Improvements in life expectancy at birth are achieved through reductions in the probability of dying. One of the most significant changes in recent decades has been a reduction in infant mortality rates. During the 15 years from 1996 to 2011 the infant mortality rate in the EU-27 was almost halved. The biggest reductions in infant mortality were generally recorded within those EU Member States which tended to record higher than average levels of infant mortality in 1996. The lowest infant mortality rate within the EU-27 in 2011 occurred in Sweden (2.1 deaths per 1 000 live births), Finland (2.4 ‰) and Estonia (2.5 ‰). By contrast, infant mortality rates were approximately four times higher in Romania (9.4 ‰) and Bulgaria (8.5 ‰).

Data sources and availability

Eurostat provides information on a wide range of demographic data, including statistics on the number of deaths by age, by year of birth, as well as according to sex and educational attainment; statistics are also collected for infant mortality and late foetal deaths. A series of mortality indicators are produced, which may be used to derive a range of information on subjects such as crude death rates or life expectancy measures by age, sex or educational attainment.


The gradual increase in life expectancy in the EU is one of the contributing factors to the ageing of the EU-27’s population – alongside relatively low levels of fertility that have persisted for decades (see the articles on population structure and ageing and fertility statistics).

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Demography (t_pop)
Demography - National data (t_demo)
Mortality (t_demo_mor)
Life expectancy at birth, by sex (tps00025)
Life expectancy at 60 (tps00026)
Life expectancy at age 65, by sex (tsdde210)
Infant mortality (tps00027)


Demography (pop)
Demography - National data (demo)
Population (demo_pop)
Fertility (demo_fer)
Mortality (demo_mor)
Deaths by age at last birthday and sex (demo_magec)
Deaths by age reached during the year and sex (demo_mager)
Deaths by age at last birthday, sex and educational attainment (ISCED 1997) (demo_maeduc)
Deaths by month (demo_mmonth)
Life expectancy by age and sex (demo_mlexpec)
Life expectancy by age, sex and educational attainment (ISCED 1997) (demo_mlexpecedu)
Life table (demo_mlifetable)
Infant mortality (demo_minf)
Infant mortality rates (demo_minfind)
Late foetal deaths by mother's age (demo_mfoet)
Marriage and divorce (demo_nup)
Demography - Regional data (demoreg)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

  • Mortality (ESMS metadata file - demo_mor_esms)

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links