A care worker assisted an elderly person in Helsinki in November 2017. Finland was one of seven EU member states where life expectancy did not recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2023, according to a report by Helsingin Sanomat. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)


A TOTAL of 18 EU countries saw their life expectancy rebound to or over levels preceding the coronavirus pandemic in 2023, according to statistics from Eurostat.

Helsingin Sanomat on Thursday highlighted that Finland was one of seven member states where the life expectancy remained below pre-pandemic levels, standing at 81.7 years compared with 82.1 years in 2019.

Life expectancy had yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels also in Germany, Greece, Estonia, the Netherlands, Austria and Iceland. In Romania, by contrast, life expectancy was a full year higher in 2023 than in 2019, at 76.6 years.

Mika Gissler, a research professor at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), stated to the newspaper that a key reason for the delayed recovery is the high number of deaths recorded among the elderly during the wave of coronavirus infections that occurred in Finland between November and December 2023. Mortality among over 70-year-olds was a third higher than usually in the two-month period.

Also in Finland, life expectancy improved from the worst year of the pandemic, 2022. Gissler added that data from early parts of this year suggest that mortality will fall to pre-pandemic levels this year.

Covid-19 caused a spike in mortality in Finland in 2022, cutting the life expectancy for men by six months and the expectancy for women by nearly a year for the period between the autumn of 2021 and end of 2022. In many other member states, coronavirus-related mortality peaked earlier in the pandemic.

Life expectancy refers to how long newborns would live on average assuming no changes in age group-specific mortality rates until the end of their lives. It thereby enables the comparison of mortality rates in a population over different time periods while taking into the age structure.

In Finland, rapid population ageing has had an impact on mortality rates and, more specifically, on pandemic-related mortality rates. As older people tend to have a weaker immune response, a coronavirus infection can prove fateful regardless of their vaccination status.

Coronavirus-related deaths among the elderly do not have as significant an impact on life expectancy as deaths among younger people, reminded Helsingin Sanomat. Gissler pointed out to the newspaper that the pandemic had hardly any impact on mortality among under 50-year-olds in the country.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT