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

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.

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

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. 

READ ALSO: From beer to babies, the 15 statistics you need to understand Germans

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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Reader question: Should I modernise my heating system in Germany?

With Germany fearing a potential gas shortage and rising bills, residents may be wondering what options are out there to upgrade or change their heating system - or if they have to.

Reader question: Should I modernise my heating system in Germany?

Do property owners have to part with their gas and oil heating systems?

Not necessarily, but boilers which were installed before 1992 – or are more than 30 years old – can no longer be in operation according to the Building Energy Act (Gebäudeenergiegesetz, GEG) and – usually – have to be replaced with more efficient systems.

This applies to heating systems with a so-called constant-temperature boiler and a rated output of four to 400 kilowatts (kW). The temperature of these boilers is consistently high and can only be adjusted to a limited extent.

READ ALSO: Gas bills to double for millions of German households

This makes them more inefficient than, for example, condensing boilers, which consume less gas.

If you’re a tenant in Germany and have any concerns, you should contact your landlord to ask them about the boiler. 

Are there exceptions?

Condensing boilers or low-temperature boilers are not affected. 

There can also be exceptions for systems that are only for hot water, as well for some long-time home owners.

However, even if there is no obligation, it might still be worth looking into replacing an older system, or asking your landlord to.

Can new oil and gas heating systems still be installed?

In the coalition agreement, the government had stipulated that from 2025 onwards, all newly installed heating systems would have to be operated with a minimum share of 65 percent renewable energies. The coalition now want to bring this deadline forward to January 2024.

The concept paper presented in July is to be discussed by the end of the month. The installation of new pure oil or gas heating systems would then not be allowed from 2024 onwards, but this does not amount to a complete ban on these systems.

Heating systems that have already been installed can continue to be operated in 2024, unless they are older heating systems that have to be replaced. By 2045, however, all heating systems should be completely converted to renewables. About half of all homes in Germany are currently still heated with gas.

A person turns the radiator on

A person turns the radiator on. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

What grants are available for the replacement of old heating systems?

Until recently, the installation of new gas hybrid and gas condensing heating systems (renewable-ready heating systems) was subsidised by up to 40 percent. From August 15th, however, this will come to an end: subsidies for all gas-fired heating systems will be discontinued.

Who do I have to contact to apply for subsidy?

Homeowners can apply for the funds at the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA). Applicants can check the processing status on the website. The government subsidies are grouped under Bundesförderung für effiziente Gebäude (Federal Subsidy for Efficient Buildings), or BEG for short.

READ ALSO: How much extra will German households pay under new gas surcharge?

What other regulations will come into force on August 15th?

The state will continue to provide financial support to owners who want to replace their old heating systems with more climate-friendly alternatives. However, the subsidy rates will drop significantly by between five and 10 percent from mid-August.

For solar collector systems, there will only be a 25 percent subsidy rate instead of the previous 30 percent.

Previously, the maximum subsidy rate for the installation of a heat pump was 50 percent, but from mid-August it will shrink to 40 percent with an upper limit of €60,000 per residential unit.

A new heating-exchange bonus of 10 percent has also been decided on. This is paid on top of the subsidy rate, and means owners can receive a kind of ‘special bonus’ for switching to resource-saving heating alternatives. A prerequisite for the bonus when replacing gas heating systems is that they must be more than 20 years old. According to the Economic Ministry, older systems are a particular focus of the measures because they consume a lot of energy.

READ ALSO: Should I install in an electric heater in Germany this winter?

Why have measures been adjusted?

The German government justifies the changes by saying that the dependence on Russian gas and oil needs to be reduced. Consuming less energy is the cheapest and most efficient contribution to more independence and better climate protection, the Economic Ministry says.

Incentives are essential, but they’ve been reduced for economic reasons in order to be able to make the subsidies available to more people, says the government.

“In future, the individual will get a little less in subsidies than before, but many people will be able to benefit from the subsidy programmes. This is appropriate in times of high energy costs,” said Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) recently.

“The vast majority of people live in older houses. Renovating now, replacing windows, throwing out the gas heating – that helps to save costs.”