New EU countries younger and ageing less

Overall life expectancy of the population of the ten new member countries of the EU is lower than in the countries of the EU-15 The population of the accession countries is ageing less strongly than the fifteen countries that made up the EU until 1 May.

Life expectancy, 2002

Life expectancy, 2002

Life expectancy lower in new countries

Women live to an average age of 81.6 years in the EU-15. They live longest in France, Spain and Italy, namely to 83 years. Within the EU-15 female life expectancy is only below 80 years in Ireland and Denmark.

In the new member countries, the EU-10, life expectancy below 80 years for women is the rule rather than the exception. Women in the EU-25 live to an average age of 81.2 years.

The average life expectancy of men in the EU-15 is 75.5 years. Swedish and Italian men live longest. After enlargement, average male life expectancy will fall to 74.9 years. In the new countries, only men in Cyprus and Malta live longer than this on average. Men in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania only reach the age of 66 years on average.

Large difference between sexes in Baltic states

The difference in life expectancy between men and women is around 6 years in the EU-15. In some of the new countries, this is very different. The difference between male and female life expectancy in the Baltic states, for example, is around twelve years.

Percentage of over-65s in the population, 1990 and 2002 

Percentage of over-65s in the population, 1990 and 2002

Less ageing in new member states

In 2002, 16.4 percent of the overall population in the EU-15 was older than 65. Italy has most over-65s, with 18.2 percent, while the Netherlands is one of the least ‘grey’ countries, with 13.7 percent.

After enlargement, the percentage of over-65s in the EU-25 will be 16.0 percent. The percentage is lower than this average in all ten new countries. Ageing is relatively slight in Cyprus and Slovakia in particular.

Percentage of over-65s, change 2001-2025

Percentage of over-65s, change 2001-2025

Ageing will affect newcomers too

The five countries in which the largest increase in the percentage of over-65s is predicted to occur are all new member countries. The populations of Malta, Slovenia and Cyprus in particular are set to age substantially in the future.

Arno Sprangers