Report: Life expectancy in RO fell by 1.4 years during pandemic, double the EU’s average drop

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Life expectancy in Romania increased by more than four years between 2000 and 2019, but declined temporarily by 1.4 years to 74.2 years in 2020 due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the recently released 2021 Country Health Profiles, a joint project of the European Commission, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies (Observatory).© Provided by Romania Insider

In contrast, the average reduction across the EU in 2020 was 0.7 years. 

Life expectancy at birth in Romania increased from 71.2 to 75.6 years between 2000 and 2019, but remained among the lowest in the EU, six years below the EU average (80.6). 

The EU countries with the highest life expectancy are Norway (83.3), Iceland (83.1), and Ireland (82.8), while Romania has the second-lowest life expectancy in the EU, after Bulgaria (73.6).

In 2020, Covid-19 accounted for about 16,000 deaths in Romania or 5 % of all deaths, according to the report. Around 18,500 more deaths were registered by the end of August 2021. The mortality rate from Covid-19 up to the end of August 2021 was about 12 % higher in Romania than the average across EU countries.  

In 2020, the country had a marked gender gap in life expectancy: women live almost eight years longer than men (78.4 years compared to 70.5), which is among the largest gaps in the EU.

Risky health behaviors contribute to nearly half of all deaths, the report found. Romanians report higher alcohol consumption and unhealthier diets than the EU averages. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of mortality, while lung cancer is the most frequent cause of cancer death. The preventable mortality rate is the third highest in the EU and can be attributed mainly to cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and alcohol-related deaths.

Ischaemic heart disease was the leading cause of mortality in Romania in 2018, accounting for over 19 % of all deaths. Mortality from stroke – the second leading cause of death – accounted for 16 % of all deaths. Lung cancer was the most frequent cause of cancer death, with a mortality rate that has increased by nearly 11 % since 2000, due mainly to high smoking rates. Mortality rates of other cancer types have also increased in recent years – particularly colorectal cancer.

Unhealthy diets, including low fruit and vegetable intake, and high sugar and salt consumption, were implicated in a quarter of all deaths in 2019. Tobacco consumption (including second-hand smoking) contributed to an estimated 17 % of all deaths, while around 7 % were attributable to alcohol consumption, and 2 % to low levels of physical activity.

Air pollution, in the form of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone exposure alone contributed an estimated 7 % of all deaths in 2019 (over 17,000 deaths) – a much higher proportion than on average across EU countries (4 %).

The 2021 Country Health Profiles, released on December 13, are part of the State of Health in the EU cycle, a joint project of the European Commission, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies (Observatory). The data and information are based mainly on national statistics provided to Eurostat and the OECD.

The Country Health Profiles 2021 are available here. Romania’s can be read here.

(Photo: Alexey Novikov | Dreamstime.com)

simona@romania-insider.com

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