Life expectancy


Statbel, processed by Statistics Flanders



Life expectancy: life expectancy at a given age indicates how many life years a person can expect to live from that age onwards if he were subject to the observed mortality rates per age of the observation period for the rest of his life.

It is a frequently reported period measure, providing an indicator of the general health level of the population in the observation period.

Life expectancy at birth is the life expectancy from the day of birth – an average for all persons born that year.

Statistical services use 2 definitions of age when compiling demographic parameters ("double classification"):

  1. age according to the last birthday = number of past birthdays (exact age)
  2. age according to the year of birth = the number of whole years between the year of observation and the year of birth

In general for ages x ≥ 1 year, the life expectancy with age according to the year of birth is higher than the life expectancy with age according to the last birthday. Until approximately x = 50 years for men and 60 years for women, the difference is approximately 0.5 years; past that age, the difference narrows gradually. This can be explained by the fact that for the definition with age according to the year of birth, the life expectancy at successive ages is determined on 1 January of the year in which one will reach that age. For the definition with age according to the last birthday, this is on the day of the birthday, which on average falls around halfway through the calendar year.

Here the calculation with the exact age is always used.

Remarks on quality

The calculations of life expectancy are based on the number of deaths per age, as presented in the mortality table with the so-called 'double age classification', according to age and according to the year of birth. Statbel follows Eurostat guidelines in this respect. All calculations are transparent and verifiable.
The processing of certain data on death certificates (including medical data with causes of death) has been entrusted by Royal Decree to the regional authorities (regions and communities) of Belgium. The Agency for Care and Health has been authorised by the Government of Flanders to do this (under the authority of competent physicians-civil servants). The coordination of all registrations for compiling the official
death statistics is the responsibility of Statbel. Therefore the various federal and regional partners involved meet regularly to better align their activities (see the meetings of the COD (Causes of Death) Working Group).
The final death statistics are prepared by Statbel on the basis of two sources: 1) the National Register of Natural Persons (NR), and 2) the statistical death declaration forms of the municipal civil registry (including electronic declarations) for which the relevant information is provided by the regions and communities in accordance with current standards and procedures.
Statbel only considers the deaths of persons with a legal place of residence in Belgium at the time of death and are considered to be part of the legally resident population (exclusion of the waiting register for asylum seekers). This is based (since 2010) on the registers for the legally resident population in the National Register of Natural Persons (NR) as a reference source.
The federal government reports periodically on the statistics regarding deaths to various international bodies, including Eurostat and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The statistics of the source Eurostat refer to the 'usually resident population'. It is not always clear to what extent the various member states have a clear picture of the mortality rates for this population.


Agency for Care and Health: Mortality, life expectancy and causes of death

Eurostat: Database

National Register: National register of natural persons

Statbel: Mortality, life expectancy and causes of death 

Statistics Flanders: Demographic components

Study Centre for Perinatal Epidemiology (SPE): SPE - Annual Reports

Archives of Public Health: Infant mortality in Flanders 1998-2008


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