Is East-West Life Expectancy Gap Narrowing in the Enlarged European Union?

Domantas Jasilionis, Demographic Research Centre, Vytautas Magnus University
France Meslé, Institut National d'Etudes Démographiques
Jacques Vallin, Institut National d'Etudes Démographiques

The fall of Berlin wall in 1990 and the EU enlargement in 2004 are two major political events in the recent history of Central and Eastern Europe. What were their impact on life expectancy and trends in the seven Central and Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004? After examining mortality changes in terms of age patterns and cause-of-death structures, it appears that the two political events brought quite different consequences for the three Baltic countries on one hand, and for the four Central European countries (Czech Rep., Poland, Slovakia and Hungary) on another hand. The collapse of the communism was accompanied with immediate positive changes in the Central European countries but with a sudden worsening and persisting health disadvantage in the Baltic countries. Conversely, positive effects of joining the EU in 2004 seem to have been more pronounced in the three Baltic countries than in four Central European countries. In the total, the Czech Republic, Poland, and (more recently) Estonia are the clear vanguards in the health convergence towards the EU-15 levels. In all seven new member states, further progress requires much more systematic efforts in combatting cardiovascular diseases and persisting burden of excess male mortality at adult ages.

Presented in Session 22: Mortality Trends in High(er) Income Countries