When it comes to life expectancy, Germany lags behind the Western European average. Since 2000, the gap has grown by an entire year. But why is that? 

Germany is one of the worst performers in Western Europe when it comes to life expectancy and is continuing to lose ground. This is shown by a current study by the Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB) and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, which examined mortality trends over several decades. 

In 2000, Germany was around 0.7 years behind the average life expectancy at birth in Western Europe. By 2022, the gap has increased to 1.7 years. “The beginning of the 2000s marks a turning point in the dynamics of mortality development in Germany,” says BiB lead author Pavel Grigoriev, summarizing the results. Since then, the mortality gap between Germany and other Western European countries has grown relatively steadily.

As the study shows, after reunification, East Germany was initially able to significantly reduce the gap compared to West Germany and Western Europe. Financial investments in health care also contributed to this, it is said. “However, since the turn of the millennium, both West and East Germany have lost ground compared to the other countries in Western Europe,” says a statement from the Wiesbaden Federal Institute.

According to the researchers, individual age groups contribute in different ways to Germany’s growing gap in life expectancy. Among women in Germany, people aged 75 and over in particular have a higher mortality rate than their peers in other Western European countries. For men, on the other hand, the age group between 55 and 74 years of age particularly contributes to the gap. “With regard to the causes of death, the deficit was explained in particular by a higher mortality due to cardiovascular diseases,” writes the team in the “Bundesgesundheitsblatt”.

For BiB Research Director Sebastian Klüsener, there is a need for action, especially in the prevention and early detection of cardiovascular diseases. The same applies to the areas of tobacco and alcohol prevention and healthy nutrition. “There is still a lot of potential here to better prepare us for the current aging process in society,” says 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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