Reader question: What's the life expectancy in Germany?

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Reader question: What's the life expectancy in Germany?
A one-year old girl in Menden, North Rhine-Westphalia being held up by her mother. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Guido Kirchner

Babies born in today's Germany can expect to live much longer than previous generations - with a slight decrease since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.


The average life expectancy for women is 83.2 years, a decrease of 0.4 years since the year before the pandemic (2019). 

For men, the figure sits slightly slower at 78.2 years, or a decrease in 0.6 years, according to newly released figures from the Federal Statistical Office.

Yet there are strong regional differences. In the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, life expectancy is the highest nationwide - at 79.9 years for men and 84.2 years for women. 

READ ALSO: Germany's population stagnates amid pandemic


In the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, men have the lowest life expectancy - around 77 years. In the small western state of Saarland, women have the shortest lifespans, or around 82 years.

There was a significant gap between life expectancy in eastern and western states at reunification. The gap has now closed for women, but east German men still have a life expectancy that is about one and a half years lower than men in the west.

Since the pandemic, the gap has increased further "because the eastern German states have been hit harder by the pandemic so far," wrote the Federal Statistical Office.

How has life expectancy changed in Germany?

Data on life expectancy at birth has been available since the foundation of the German Empire in 1871. 

At that time, it was 35.6 years for men and 38.5 years for women. The low figures could be attributed to the high infant mortality rate. At that time, a quarter of newborns died in their first year of life.

How old people actually live is usually calculated from average age at death. 

Excluding those who died in the first year of life, the normal age at death sat at around 60 years for a long time. 

In 1956, it was 62 years for men and 66 for women. In 2020, it was 76 and 82 years respectively. 

People in Germany today are therefore living on average around 15 years older than previous generations.

What has influenced life expectancy in Germany? 

Since the 19th century, medical care, hygiene, nutrition and the housing situation for large swathes of the population have improved significantly.

"Working conditions and increased material prosperity can also be cited as significant reasons," wrote the Federal Statistical Office.


After World War II, war-related health damage and a sharp increase in traffic accidents slowed the trend considerably, as did the Hong Kong flu between 1969 and 1970.

Yet since then, life expectancy has risen steadily in the Bundesrepublik. 

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According to the Federal Statistical Office, four factors are important for the longer-living trend to continue: less tobacco and alcohol consumption, fewer suicides and fewer overweight children and young people.


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