Latvian women can expect to live to 78 years, almost full decade more than men, who have an equivalent figure of 68.2 years. The 2021 figure for women was 2 years below the 2020 figure, while the 2021 figure for men was down by 2.4 years (the joint largest decrease with Slovakia). Only Bulgarian men (68 years) have shorter lives than Latvian men.
In fact, the difference between the lifespans of the sexes is largest in Latvia. With a gender gap of 5.7 years in 2021, newly born females in the EU could generally expect to outlive men but the largest difference between the sexes was found in Latvia (9.8 years) and the smallest in the Netherlands (3.3 years).
In 2019, life expectancy at birth in the EU reached 81.3 years but then fell in 2020 to 80.4 (-0.9 years) and in 2021 decreased further (-0.3 years compared with 2020), probably as a result of the sudden increase in mortality because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the country level, the highest life expectancy at birth in 2021 was recorded in Spain (83.3 years), Sweden (83.1 years), Luxembourg and Italy (both 82.7 years), while the lowest was in Bulgaria (71.4 years), Romania (72.8 years) and Latvia (73.1 years).
In 2021 in most Member States there was a significant decrease in life expectancy (see Table 1 and Table 2). The largest decreases of total life expectancy at birth (males and females) were recorded in Latvia and Slovakia (both -2.4 compared with 2020) followed by Bulgaria (-2.2).
When comparing life expectancy in 2021 with 2020, it decreased by 1 year or more in 11 Member States (Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia), it decreased by less than 1 year in 5 Member States, was constant in two Member States and it increased in 9 Member States, with Belgium recording the largest increase by 1.1 years.
However, there is one piece of good news in among the generally depressing data. Over the decade from 2011 to 2021, Latvia has massively reduced its level of infant mortality.