Estonia, a beautiful, Baltic country with a historically turbulent background, is a striking model of a nation that refuses to let adversities stand in the way of its mission for improvement. Despite Estonia’s many challenges over the last two decades, it continues to prove that positive change is possible, no matter how small. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Estonia demonstrate the most notable progress the country has made in pursuit of a longer and higher quality of life for its people.
10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Estonia
- As of 2018, the life expectancy for Estonian women was 82 years, while it was 72.3 years for men, adding roughly three years to the lifespans of both genders since 2008. While these numbers are still slightly below the EU average for 2018 (84 years for women and 79 for men), Estonia has made quite a dent in its life expectancy gap over the last decade.
- Preventable diseases largely affect low life expectancy in Estonia. Cardiovascular disease is responsible for killing three in five women and nearly half of all Estonian men. Various types of cancer account for the deaths of 22 percent of women and 27 percent of men, making it the leading cause of death in Estonia.
- In the last decade, Estonia’s Parliament introduced initiatives to address the number of deaths resulting from risky behaviors like alcohol abuse, injectable drug use and smoking. Initiatives involved a national Drug Prevention Policy and public awareness campaigns on the harmful effects of alcohol use and smoking. Daily smoking is down to 17.2 percent in 2018 compared to 30 percent in 2001. People who used injectables for at least three years decreased from 21 percent in 2005 to eight percent in 2011. Alcohol abuse is still alarmingly high, though, and accounted for 21.4 percent of all casualties in 2015 despite awareness campaigns and restrictions on alcohol sale and increased excise taxes.
- The Estonian Government approved a National Health Plan for 2014 through 2020 to improve the quality and accessibility of health care institutions. To ensure all socioeconomic groups had access to the same quality of care, Estonia opened a national health insurance fund for patient reimbursements, required doctors and pharmacists to prescribe the most affordable medication available and launched an online platform to ensure that the health care system remained as transparent as possible.
- Estonia launched an e-prescription service alongside its National Health Plan. By 2011, the medical field issued 84 percent of all prescriptions digitally with a 90 percent satisfaction rate. This digital shift also benefited pharmacies, cutting staff costs related to incorrect prescriptions by 90 percent and putting considerable savings back into the national health fund in order to further improve life expectancy in Estonia.
- Around 44,000 people or 3.4 percent of the Estonian population lived in absolute poverty as of 2017. Low income and poorly educated populations in Estonia were 50 percent more likely to develop respiratory diseases and 40 percent more likely to develop hypertension than those operating at the highest levels of income. But, social transfers in the form of benefits and pensions saved 22.8 percent of the population from slipping into poverty in the first place.
- Estonian’s who go on to earn a university degree may live 14 years longer than those who only attain lower secondary educations. In 2014, 90 percent of Estonian adults between the ages of 25 and 64 had achieved upper secondary or tertiary forms of education. This number is comparatively much higher than the OECD average of 75 percent.
- Economic growth in Estonia is directly related to the country’s astonishing technological advancement since 1991. This advancement has played a major role in creating jobs in Estonia. According to The World Bank, over 14,000 new tech companies registered in Estonia in 2011, a 40 percent increase since 2008. High-tech companies also account for 15 percent of the country’s GDP.
- In an effort to combat high unemployment among Estonian youth, the country established ENTRUM (Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme). The program aims to encourage creativity, problem-solving skills and knowledge of risk management. Between 2010 and 2012, over 1,000 teens participated in the program. Former participants went on to create 59 new businesses, the most successful employing upwards of 60 people.
- Estonia boasts a massive network of over 33,000 registered nonprofit organizations acting as service providers for citizens. These organizations employ 28,000 Estonian, making the nonprofit sector responsible for the paid employment of four to five percent of the national workforce.
Despite its turbulent past, Estonia has proven over the last two decades that it is capable of great improvement. These improvements come in the form of technological advancement, transparent and efficient health care and government initiatives focused on accessing all citizens and ensuring they receive the care they need.
– Ashlyn Jensen