Life expectancy in Belgium increases to pre-pandemic levels

Life expectancy in Belgium increases to pre-pandemic levels
Women in Belgium live for almost five years longer than men. Credit: Belga / Maxime Anciaux

Life expectancy increased by almost one year in 2021 after the pandemic-driven 2020, meaning the rate has returned roughly to the level of 2019 (81.8 years).

Last year, life expectancy at birth in Belgium was 81.7 years, up by 0.9 years compared to the previous year, when it dropped to 80.8, an analysis of the general mortality by Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, showed. This drop was largely down to the large effect the pandemic had on mortality, and in turn, on life expectancy.

This overall drop was also recorded across all EU Member States, as life expectancy at birth in the EU was estimated at 80.4 years in 2020, 0.9 years lower than in 2019, a recent Eurostat report read. Belgium does score better than the EU average when it comes to life expectancy, however, it lags behind many western European countries.

Although the impact of the pandemic on Belgian mortality is clearly smaller in 2021 than in 2020, it still resulted in a moderate increase in the number of deaths of 2.4% compared to the average in the period between 2017 and 2019.

"We expect this effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on life expectancy to continue to fade in the coming years. It is therefore important to interpret the figures for 2020 and 2021 with caution," the report from Statebel read.

Women living longer than men

In Belgium, women born now are expected to become 84 years old, while men's life expectancy is 79.2 years. This is a global trend, as everywhere in the world, women live longer than men, with women in some countries like Russia even living up to ten years longer.

There are many biological, behavioural and environmental factors that contribute to this. Meanwhile, in Belgium, women's life expectancy is more rapidly returning to levels seen in 2019 (+11 days or +0.03 years since 2019-, while a slight decrease is seen in men (-124 days or -0.34 years).

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However, the difference between men and women in Belgium is decreasing: In 1998, this was still 6.3 years, now it has decreased to 4.8 years in 2021.

Regional differences

The highest life expectancy is still being recorded in Flanders, at 82.7 years. In the Brussels-Capital Region, life expectancy was 81.3 years and in the Walloon Region, it was 79.9 years.

In Flanders, it has now reached the same level as in 2019, while in Brussels, life expectancy at birth this year saw the strongest rise of all regions by 1.7 years, after the strongest fall of two years last year.

In Wallonia, life expectancy at birth rose from 78.9 years in 2020 to 79.9 years in 2021, but, as in Brussels, it remains lower than in 2019 (when it was 80.3 years).

Within the regions, in six of the ten Belgian provinces, life expectancy at birth in the period 2019-2021 is above 82 years. The highest life expectancy is in Flemish Brabant (82.9 years), followed by Limburg (82.6 years) and Walloon Brabant (82.5 years).

Four provinces, all located in Wallonia, are below the national average of 81.4 years for the period 2019-2021, including Luxembourg (80.1 years), Namur (79.8 years), Liege (79.6 years) and Hainaut (78.8 years).

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