In 2020, Belgian men spent 63.6 years of their lives in good health, and women 64 years, according to data published by Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency.
Eurostat measured “healthy life years” since birth, the number of years that a person is expected to continue to live in a healthy condition, for both men and women from the 27 EU members. This counts how many years Europeans live without some sort of activity limitation or disability.
On average, men in the EU lived for 63.5 years in good health, slightly shorter than women, who spent 64.5 year in good health. In 20 EU member countries, the healthy lifespan of women was longer than that for men with the average difference being generally small. In 7 of these 20 EU countries, the gap was more than two years.
In just six EU member states, women lived fewer years healthy than men. The largest gap between women and men is in the Netherlands, where women lived 2.8 healthy years less than men.
The biggest difference in levels of healthy living between the sexes was recorded in Bulgaria (4.2 years), Estonia (4.1 years), and Poland (4 years.) The Harvard Medical School believes that the difference between women and men’s health can be explained by biological factors, social factors, and behavioural factors.
In Belgium, healthy life years for men were just over the EU average, whereas women were slightly under.
Among the other EU member states, Sweden recorded the highest number of healthy life years for women (72.7 years), followed by Malta (70.7 years), and Italy (68.7). The lowest levels for women were recorded in Latvia (54.3), Finland (55.9), and Slovakia (57.1).
For men, Swedes lived healthy the longest (72.8), followed by Malta (70.2), and Italy (66.3). Those in the worst health came exclusively from the Baltic states, Latvia (52.6), Lithuania (55.1), and Estonia (55.5).
Life expectancy across the EU was, on average, still 5.7 years longer for women than for men. Women lived to be an EU average of 83.2 years old, whereas men typically die at 77.5 years old.
This means that, while men live shorter lives, they live a greater proportion of it in good health. On average, women spend 78% of their lives in good health, while men spend 82% in good health, but die younger.