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: Can Ukrainians get dual nationality in Germany?

Most non-EU citizens who want to become naturalised German citizens have to give up their existing passport first. Do the same rules apply to Ukrainians?

Reader question: Can Ukrainians get dual nationality in Germany?

Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, people with Ukrainian citizenship were treated much like most other third-country nationals: according to Germany’s strict rules on dual nationality, the vast majority were asked to give up their existing passport before naturalising as a German.

However, the outbreak of war on Ukrainian soil has complicated matters significantly. 

Firstly, the majority of Ukrainians who have come to Germany over the past year have arrived as refugees. At the latest count, almost a million refugees had travelled to Germany from Ukraine in 2022 – though some of these may now have returned home.

German immigration law specifies a number of exceptions to the dual nationality ban. One of these stipulates that asylum seekers can keep their existing nationality if they choose to naturalise in Germany. That means that Ukrainian refugees would automatically qualify for dual nationality – as long as they meet other requirements for citizenship, such as at least six years of continued residency and B1 German language skills.

READ ALSO: German citizenship: Can people who apply before the law changes get dual nationality?

Most recently, however, the Interior Ministry passed a further significant change to the law. On September 6th, the ministry agreed to waive the requirement to give up previous nationalities for Ukrainian citizens applying for a German passport. This change applies to all Ukrainians who fit the requirements for citizenship – not just refugees.

The reasoning behind the change is that the government assumes that, given the current conflict, it’s likely to be impossible for Ukrainians to give up their citizenship.

Understandably at a time of war, numerous aspects of everyday bureaucracy have been put on hold in Ukraine. That means that applications to renounce Ukrainian citizenships are currently not being processed at all.

In situations like these, where an application to give up a previous citizenship is not likely to be granted – or is likely to be refused – Germany has another exception in place. In such cases, citizenship offices are required to allow the applicant to become a naturalised German without requiring them to dispense with their previous nationality. 

When is the best time to apply?

According to the Interior Ministry, the relaxed rules for Ukrainians will only apply as long as the conflict continues. That means that, if the situation stabilises and authorities begin processing applications to renounce citizenship again, Germany may well decide to tighten up its rules once more.

That means that it could be advisable for Ukrainians who are eligible to apply for German citizenship to submit their application as soon as possible.

However, it’s also worth mentioning that the government is currently planning to relax the dual nationality rules across the board.

Though it’s unclear when this will take place, it is believed to be a priority project for the SPD-led Interior Ministry, which could mean that citizenship rules are liberalised within a matter of months.

That would mean that everyone could be entitled to hold multiple nationalities in Germany, regardless of their original citizenship.

For more information on the upcoming changes to dual nationality and citizenship rules, see our explainers below: