Which DACH region leads in life expectancy in 2024: Germany, Austria, or Switzerland?

The DACH region consists of Germany (Deutschland), Austria, and Switzerland (Confœderatio Helvetica). It stands prominently in Central Europe, renowned for its high living standards and advanced healthcare systems. 

Elders exercising.

This trio, linked by their geographical closeness and strong cultural and economic ties, provides a compelling setting to explore life expectancy—a crucial measure of public health and societal well-being.

Investigating longevity in these countries can shed light on the impact of sophisticated healthcare infrastructures and extensive welfare systems. Does this area host a significant number of centenarians?

And what lessons can be learned from their health systems? This article at Avea, aims to unpack these questions, offering insights into the factors that contribute to the remarkable life expectancy observed in the DACH countries.

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What is life expectancy?

Life expectancy, a critical indicator of public health, reflects the average number of years a person is expected to live based on current mortality rates.

It is a vital metric, providing insights into the overall health of a population, the effectiveness of healthcare policies, and the quality of life within a region. 

Life expectancy in Germany

In 2024, Germany’s life expectancy is expected to reach 82.04 years, marking a 0.19% increase from the previous year. This steady growth pattern is mirrored in recent years. 

  • 2023: Recorded at 81.88 years, also up by 0.19% from 2022.
  • 2022: Was 81.72 years, marking a 0.19% increase from 2021.
  • 2021 life: Stood at 81.57 years, showing a 0.19% rise from 2020.

2019 epidemiological study

In a recent study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, researchers dived into the nuances of life expectancy in Germany compared to 15 other European countries, the USA, and Japan. 

The findings reveal a surprising detail: despite Germany’s robust economy, advanced healthcare, and well-established social security systems, its life expectancy is notably lower than expected for such a prosperous Western European nation.

In the 2019 study, Germany’s life expectancy positioned itself near the bottom amongst the “old” EU member states. It ranked 14th out of 15 for men and 13th for women. 

This lag becomes even more pronounced when Germany is compared with global longevity leaders like Japan or Switzerland, where the life expectancy gap extends to about 3–4 years.

Factors contributing to lower life expectancy  

The research points out that despite having equitable and state-of-the-art healthcare, the expected longevity convergence with other high-income countries has not materialised. 

Interestingly, Germany does not face the same health crises impacting countries like the USA or the UK, such as opioid addiction or severe austerity measures, which often dominate discussions on public health. 

Moreover, German health behaviours, including smoking, obesity, and alcohol consumption, whilst not ideal, are not drastically worse than those in comparable countries. 

This suggests that these lifestyle choices alone do not account for the discrepancy in life expectancy. There has to be something more.

Impact of healthcare infrastructure  

Germany boasts a healthcare system that is both equitable and well-funded, characteristics that (according to Germans), ensured a strong response during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet, researchers suggest that this system’s efficiency, especially in preventive care, might not be as impactful as needed to close the life expectancy gap. 

Turns out that Germans might not be as proactive as their neighbours in managing conditions like hypertension, which could lead to later-stage complications when they do seek care.

Government health policies and their effectiveness  

To improve life expectancy, Germany needs to focus on reducing premature morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular diseases, which are a significant burden. 

The researchers advocate for a stronger emphasis on health policy and prevention, alongside boosting the overall effectiveness of the primary care setting. 

These steps are crucial for Germany to harness its full potential in extending the life expectancy of its population to match those of the leading countries in longevity.

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Future steps for enhancing life expectancy in Germany

Strengthening healthcare infrastructure 

Focus on expanding the current healthcare system, which provides universal coverage to approximately 90% of the population through statutory health insurance. Continue improving the extensive network of hospitals and clinics, ensuring access to advanced medical technology and a robust selection of specialists and primary care physicians dedicated to both preventive and acute care. 

Enhancing chronic disease management

Address the challenge of chronic diseases, which are the leading causes of death—namely heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Strengthen efforts in early detection and management through regular health screenings and targeted public health campaigns aimed at lifestyle modifications. Push people towards preventive healthcare.

Promoting healthier lifestyle choices

Tackle lifestyle-related health risks by further reducing the smoking rate, currently at 22% among the adult population, through stricter anti-smoking laws and public smoking bans (Take Australia and its smoking ban for instance). Encourage dietary improvements that emphasize a balance of less meat and more vegetables and whole grains.

Expanding government health policies

Build on existing government initiatives that promote physical activity, healthy eating, and regular health check-ups. Support campaigns to reduce smoking and alcohol consumption, enhancing public health and increasing life expectancy. This proactive approach not only improves life quality but also reduces the economic burden of chronic diseases.

Life expectancy in Austria

Austria’s life expectancy continues to rise, reflecting the nation’s robust healthcare infrastructure and high standards of living. 

In 2024, life expectancy reached 82.21 years, marking a 0.2% increase from 2023. This steady growth in longevity can be attributed to various factors including healthcare access, lifestyle choices, and social conditions.

Current life expectancy trends

  • 2024: 82.21 years, a 0.2% increase from 2023.
  • 2023: 82.05 years, a 0.17% increase from 2022.
  • 2022: 81.91 years, a 0.17% increase from 2021.
  • 2021: 81.77 years, a 0.17% increase from 2020.

These figures place Austria above many of its peers in terms of health outcomes, as evidenced by its performance in various well-being dimensions compared to other countries in the OECD Better Life Index.

Key factors contributing to life expectancy in Austria

Healthcare system

Austria’s healthcare system is known for its universal coverage and efficiency. Approximately 90% of the population is covered by statutory health insurance, ensuring broad access to medical care. This system supports not only treatment but also preventive care, which is essential for managing chronic diseases that are prevalent among the elderly, such as heart disease and cancer.

Lifestyle and cultural habits

Austrians benefit from a culture that promotes active living. The country’s picturesque landscapes encourage outdoor activities, which are integrated into daily life. Moreover, the traditional Austrian diet, which balances richness with nutritious ingredients, supports overall health. However, challenges such as obesity and smoking persist, although smoking rates have been on the decline due to effective public health campaigns.

Socio-economic factors

Austria’s high standard of living is supported by a strong economy. The average household net-adjusted disposable income is significantly higher than the OECD average, which facilitates access to better healthcare and healthier lifestyle options. Employment rates are also higher than the OECD average, contributing to economic stability and better public health outcomes.

Education and public awareness

Education in Austria is robust, with a high percentage of adults completing secondary education. Higher education levels correlate with better health literacy, empowering individuals to make informed health decisions. The Austrian education system also places a strong emphasis on physical education, which fosters lifelong habits of physical activity.

Environmental quality

Austria’s environmental standards contribute to public health, with lower levels of air pollutants like PM2.5 compared to the OECD average. The high quality of drinking water also supports good health, with a significant majority of the population expressing satisfaction with water quality.

Community and civic engagement

A strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation contribute to mental and emotional well-being. High voter turnout reflects a politically engaged populace, and a strong community network provides social support, reducing stress and promoting a sense of belonging.

Life satisfaction

Reflecting the overall quality of life, Austrians rate their life satisfaction highly, above the OECD average. This sense of well-being is crucial for mental health, which is intrinsically linked to physical health.

Austria’s impressive life expectancy is the result of a multifaceted approach to health and well-being. The country’s policies and public initiatives effectively address both the medical and lifestyle aspects of health, making Austria a leading example of how comprehensive care and community well-being can enhance longevity.

Life expectancy in Switzerland

Switzerland is renowned for its exceptionally high life expectancy, closely trailing Japan with some of the longest lifespans on the globe.

With the current life expectancy reaching 84.37 years in 2024, Switzerland demonstrates its continued commitment to health and well-being, advancing even beyond the impressive global standards set by other leading nations.

Historical trends and projections

Since the early 20th century, life expectancy in Switzerland has seen a remarkable increase, nearly doubling over a century. 

In 2016, life expectancy for women was around 85 years and 81 for men. These figures have steadily risen, with United Nations projections suggesting that this upward trend will continue well into 2100.

Healthcare excellence

Switzerland’s healthcare system is a cornerstone of its success in promoting long life. 

The system provides universal coverage and is supported by a network of top-tier hospitals and clinics equipped with cutting-edge technology. 

This ensures that every resident has access to the best medical treatments and preventive care. 

With healthcare expenditure around 11.4% of its GDP, significantly higher than the OECD average, Switzerland invests heavily in maintaining and improving the health of its citizens.

It has also excelled in managing chronic diseases, contributing significantly to increased life expectancies. For instance, from 1990 to 2011, the mortality rate from cancer fell by 28%, the highest reduction in the OECD. 

Cultural contributions to health

The Swiss culture, with its emphasis on balance and quality of life, plays a crucial role in the nation’s health outcomes. Despite high living standards, obesity rates remain low at 8.1%, the lowest in Europe.

The Swiss diet, characterised by a balance of dairy, meats, and fresh produce, contributes to the population’s health.  

The national passion for outdoor activities in the pristine Alpine environment, contribute to both physical health and a sense of well-being. There’s a high fitness level amongst citizens as activities such as hiking, skiing, and cycling are embedded in the Swiss lifestyle.

Moreover, the Swiss benefit from a robust economy that supports a lifestyle conducive to healthy living, with ample opportunities for leisure and recreation.

Impact of wealth and well-being

Wealth and well-being go hand in hand. The average household net-adjusted disposable income stands at USD 37,001 per year, well above the OECD average. 

This financial stability allows for better personal health management and access to quality healthcare.

Plus, Switzerland’s strong sense of community and safety enhances the social determinants of health, leading to a higher life satisfaction rating of 7.2 out of 10.

Innovative health policies

Switzerland’s approach to health policy is proactive and preventive. The government has implemented numerous initiatives aimed at reducing risk factors such as smoking and obesity. 

Public health campaigns promote active living and balanced diets, and regulations are in place to discourage smoking in public areas. These measures have helped decrease the prevalence of chronic diseases and enhance the overall health of the population.

It is also highly commited to maintaining a clean environment is evident in its low levels of air pollutants like PM2.5 and clean water, further supporting public health.

A hub of longevity science

Switzerland is not only a sanctuary of health for its residents but also a hub for longevity science. 

The country is home to leading research institutions that continually push the boundaries of medical science. 

Innovations in biotechnology and preventive medicine developed in Switzerland are recognised worldwide and contribute to the country’s stature as a leader in health and longevity.

The future of Swiss longevity

Looking forward, Switzerland is poised to maintain its leadership in longevity. Continuous investment in health technology, ongoing research into ageing, and a national policy framework that supports health innovations are setting the stage for even higher life expectancies and better quality of life for future generations.

As the Swiss population continues to enjoy high standards of living, effective healthcare, and a society that values health and well-being, Switzerland not only exemplifies a successful health system but also offers a model for the world on achieving and sustaining high life expectancy.

Discover 5 tips to have an above average life expectancy in Europe.

Comparing the DACH region

Life expectancy across the DACH countries, while impressive, reveals nuanced differences influenced by each nation’s healthcare policies and systems. 

Germany, Austria, and Switzerland share common health challenges such as chronic diseases, but adopt distinct approaches to healthcare. 

These strategic differences reflect in slightly varying life expectancy figures and overall health outcomes within the region.
Whilst the DACH countries lead in longevity, continuous evaluation and adaptation of their health policies are crucial. 

The insights provided spotlight the necessity for policymakers and public health officials to harmonise best practices across borders. Further research into specific health interventions could enhance life expectancy even more across these nations.

Take charge of your health by engaging in activities that promote wellbeing. Let’s make every year count!