Lower gains in life expectancy here and in the EU

Between 2011 and 2016, life expectancy at birth in the European Union rose from 80 years and 2 months to 81 years. In the Netherlands, it increased from 81 years and 1 month to 81 years and 6 months. Both are lower gains than in previous periods, as reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

Life expectancy at birth
 EU-28Netherlands
199077.02
199177.16
199277.36
199377.04
199477.52
199577.54
199677.57
199777.94
199878.01
199977.97
200078.13
200178.33
200277.778.41
200377.778.66
200478.479.24
200578.579.48
200678.979.84
200779.180.25
200879.480.39
200979.680.67
201079.980.82
201180.281.09
201280.381.05
201380.581.29
201480.981.64
201580.681.48
20168181.54
201781.73
Source: CBS, Eurostat

Between 1990 and1995 in the EU, both male and female life expectancy at birth gained 11 months. After this, life expectancy increased, but not at the same pace in every five-year period. The highest gain was recorded between 2003-2008, with male life expectancy increasing by 20 months and female life expectancy by 18 months. Subsequently, the increase slowed down to below 12 months for men and for women in the period 2011-2016.
Developments in the Netherlands were broadly consistent with those in the EU. Between 1990-1995 and between 2011-2016, the increase was less than 12 months for men and less than 6 months for women. The fastest rise in male life expectancy fell between 2003-2008 (25 months). Female life expectancy had the most rapid increase between 2002-2007 (19 months).

Increase in life expectancy, in five-year periods (years)
 EU-28 menEU-28 womenDutch menDutch women
1990-19950.90.90.80.3
1991-19961.210.60.2
1992-19971.30.90.90.3
1993-19981.311.20.7
1994-19991.30.80.80.1
1995-20001.61.10.90.2
1996-20011.61.21.10.4
1997-20021.510.80.1
1998-20031.40.81.10.2
1999-20041.71.31.51
2000-20051.511.61
2001-20061.61.31.81.2
2002-20071.51.321.6
2003-20081.71.52.11.3
2004-20091.41.11.71.2
2005-20101.51.31.61.1
2006-20111.51.11.61
2007-20121.40.81.10.5
2008-20131.411.10.8
2009-20141.511.30.6
2010-201510.510.4
2011-20160.90.50.70.3
2012-20170.90.5
Source: CBS, Eurostat, WHO-HFA
EU figures based on WHO-HFA until 2001-2006 inclusive, Eurostat as from 2002-2007

Life expectancy gains in the Netherlands lagging behind

Together with countries such as Greece and Sweden, the Netherlands is among those countries which joined the EU before the turn of the century and which have lagged behind in terms of gains in life expectancy. Gains are furthermore low in Lithuania and Bulgaria, compared to other countries which have joined since 2004 and have caught up in terms of life expectancy. Among the latter group, Slovenia already had a relatively high life expectancy in 1990.

Male life expectancy rising more rapidly

Since 1990, male life expectancy at birth has increased more rapidly than female life expectancy in almost all EU countries. This made up for part of the gap in male life expectancy. The lifestyle gap between men and women has grown smaller. For instance, the difference in smoking rates has become less significant. Exceptions are Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania and Greece, where female life expectancy rose more rapidly than male life expectancy.
In the Netherlands between 1990 and2017, male life expectancy at birth gained 6 years and 3 months, versus 3 years and 3 months for women. Male life expectancy in the Netherlands has therefore remained among the highest in the EU. For Dutch women, gains in life expectancy at birth fell between 1980 and2000, resulting in a drop from one of the highest positions in the EU to somewhere in the middle. Compared to other countries, many women in the Netherlands were smoking in the 1970s and ‘80s in particular. The effect of smoking on women’s life expectancy has lasted for several decades.

Life expectancy at birth (yrs)
 EU-28 menEU-28 womenDutch menDutch women
199071.678.773.880.1
199171.678.874.180.2
199271.979.174.380.3
199372.179.17480
199472.479.474.680.3
199572.579.674.680.4
199672.879.774.780.4
199773.28075.280.6
199873.480.175.280.7
199973.780.375.380.5
200074.180.775.580.6
200174.580.975.880.7
200274.580.97680.7
200374.680.876.280.9
200475.281.576.981.4
200575.481.577.281.6
200675.88277.681.9
20077682.27882.3
200876.382.378.382.3
200976.682.678.582.7
201076.982.878.882.7
201177.383.179.282.9
201277.48379.182.8
201377.783.379.483
201478.183.679.983.3
201577.983.379.783.1
201678.283.679.983.1
201780.183.3
Source: CBS, Eurostat, WHO-HFA
EU figures based on WHO-HFA until 2001 inclusive, Eurostat as from 2002

Fluctuating gains in life expectancy

It is not unusual to observe fluctuations in life expectancy gains. Improved hygiene and medical care (e.g. antibiotics) as well as the growth in prosperity boosted life expectancy throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Some periods saw faster growth than others. In the 20th century, smoking was the main cause of slower gains in life expectancy; first among men, later among women. Mortality due to cardiovascular diseases, for example, has been reduced with the aid of modern medical technology and prevention (e.g. smoking bans in public places).