Croatia is a small country in Southeastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula on the Adriatic Sea. It is about 56,594 square kilometers, which is smaller than West Virginia and has a population of about 4.2 million. As of 2018, Croatia’s overall GDP was $60.8 billion, according to the World Bank. The country’s economy received a boost from joining the European Union in 2013 that helped facilitate its recovery from the 2008 global financial crisis.
However, the country still faces challenges. Due to factors including an aging population, increasing levels of emigration and a declining birth rate, Croatia’s population has been in decline for decades. After reaching a peak of 4.7 million in 1990, the population dipped back to levels that the country saw in 1960. Many expect Croatia’s population to slip to 3.4 million by 2050. Enmeshed within the discussion of Croatia’s population is the aspect of life expectancy. Croatia’s average life expectancy is 77.8 years. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Croatia.
10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Croatia
- Life expectancy has steadily increased over time. The average life expectancy in 1960 was 64.6. The age has increased ever since with just a few exceptions. There was a slight dip between 1977 and 1985, again between 1991 and 1992 and again from a peak of 78 in 2016 to what it is now.
- Croatia’s medical advancements and increased life quality have helped improve life expectancy. Total Croatia News also reported that declines in the past were because of “extraordinary situations” including wars or disasters. The declines in the early ’80s and early ’90s coincided with rising tensions linked to Croatia’s 1991 war for independence from Serbian-controlled Yugoslavia. There have been no recent major events in Croatia.
- Life expectancy is higher for Croatian women than men. Echoing the commonality for male versus female life expectancy across the developed world, women in Croatia have a higher life expectancy. For women, the average age of death is 80.9 years old compared to 74.9 years for men.
- Historically, life expectancy has differed for Croats living on one of Croatia’s 1,000 islands than those living on the mainland. In the past, male Croatian islanders lived three to 10 years longer than mainland men, while island women lived two to seven years longer than mainland women, according to a study that the Croatian Medical Journal published in 2018. However, researchers found the gap in life expectancy for islanders versus mainland Croats has shrunk, with islanders having lost mortality advantages due to diminishing adherence to a traditional Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.
- For the past decade, the leading causes of premature death in Croatia have been ischemic heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. The rate per 100,000 people of deaths due to ischemic heart disease as of 2018 was 1,907.6. Further, the rates of deaths stood at 1,000.5 and 726.8 for stroke and lung cancer respectively. As smoking and diet flaws play a substantial role in these figures, the Croatian government and leading health organizations are gradually working to address these issues. In the early 2000s, the Ministry of Health commissioned its first national survey examining cardiovascular risk problems and formulated a health care intervention program based on the results. In recent years, Croatia created a heart health-focused national e-campaign to reduce salt consumption in diets and other initiatives.
- While the leading causes of death have remained stagnant, there have been sharp changes in the top causes of death. Road incidents went from Croatia’s seventh-highest cause of death in 2007 to 13th highest in 2017. A study credits this to the government’s implementation of a new road safety program and enhanced enforcement of laws linked to key problem areas. These areas include speeding, drunk-driving and failure to use motorcycle helmets, seat-belts and child restraints. Meanwhile, Alzheimer’s disease has moved from the eighth highest cause of death to the fifth, which echoes a global rise in the prevalence of the disease.
- Concurrent with declining birth rates, infant mortality rates have steadily declined over the last three decades. Croatia’s birth rate per 1,000 people stood at 8.9 in 2017 compared to 14.6 in 1981. During the same time period, the infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births improved to four from 20.7 in 1981.
- Croatia stacks up fairly well against other countries. Croatia’s life expectancy is average compared to its bordering Balkan neighbors. Based on 2017 data, the country’s life expectancy is on par with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Croatia has a higher life expectancy than Serbia and Hungary and a lower one than Slovenia. Croatia ranked as the 31st healthiest nation in the world in 2019 and its capital city Zagreb ranked as the 16th healthiest capital city in Europe.
- There have been reports of problems with health care for women. In 2018, a Croatian parliament member shared a story on the parliament floor about a poorly handled abortion procedure, re-igniting a longstanding national debate about health care for women. The BBC subsequently produced a story on how the member’s story inspired hundreds of other women to share their own experiences.
- Croatia’s health triumphs could be a result of its health care system. Croatia has a universal and mandatory health insurance scheme. The program utilizes both private and public care providers and the national Croatia Health Insurance Fund funds the system. The country’s health care system is so well regarded that medical tourism in Croatia continues to grow in popularity.
These 10 facts about life expectancy in Croatia show that the health care system is not perfect, indicating life expectancy is not as high as it could be. However, the nation does boast several positive characteristics. The evolving internal and external economics and unfolding policy initiatives in the country are likely to impact life expectancy, as well as other quality of life elements.
– Amanda Ostuni