Life expectancy in Bulgaria at birth in 2012 was 74.4 years, below the European Union average, according to the Health at a Glance: Europe 2014 joint report by the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), released on December 3 2014.
For Bulgarian women born in 2012, life expectancy was 77.9 years and for men, 70.9 years, the report said. For the EU, the figures were 82.2 years and 76.1 years, respectively.
The third edition of Health at a Glance: Europe presents the latest information on health and health systems in 35 European countries, including all European Union Member States, candidate countries (with the exception of Albania due to limited data availability) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries.
Life expectancy at birth in EU member states increased by over five years between 1990 and 2012 to 79.2 years, the report said.
However, the gap between the highest life expectancies (Spain, Italy and France) and the lowest (Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania) has not fallen since 1990.
Highly educated men and women are likely to live several years longer and to be in better health.
For example, in some central and eastern European countries, 65-year-old men with a high level of education can expect to live four to seven years longer than those with a low education level, according to the report.
On average across EU countries, women live six years longer than men. This gender gap is one year only for healthy life years (defined as the number of years of life free of activity limitation).
Spain, Italy and France lead a large group of about two-thirds of EU countries in which life expectancy at birth now exceeds 80 years.
Life expectancy remained below 80 years in central and eastern European countries as well as in the three Baltic countries.
Since 1990, there have been significant increases in life expectancy in all EU member states, due mainly to a marked reduction in mortality from cardiovascular diseases, particularly among people aged 50 to 65.
Estonia has achieved the largest gains since 1990 (around seven years), followed by the Czech Republic (6.6 years), while Lithuania and Bulgaria have achieved much smaller gains (around three years).
Cardiovascular diseases are the main cause of mortality in nearly all EU member states, accounting for almost 40% of all deaths in the region in 2011.
Cancer is the second leading cause of mortality in EU member states after diseases of the circulatory system, accounting for 24 per cent of all deaths in 2011.
In 2011, cancer mortality rates were lowest in Cyprus, Finland, Bulgaria, Sweden and Switzerland, with rates at least 15 per cent lower than the EU average.
They were highest in some central and eastern European countries, including Hungary, Croatia, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Denmark, with rates at least 15 per cent higher than the EU average, the report said.
Infant mortality, the rate at which babies and children of less than one year of age die, reflects the effect of economic and social conditions on the health of mothers and newborns, as well as the effectiveness of health systems, the report said.
In most European countries, infant mortality is low and there is little difference in rates.
A small group of countries, however, have infant mortality rates above five deaths per 1 000 live births. In 2012, rates ranged from a low of less than three deaths per 1 000 live births in Nordic countries (with the exception of Denmark), Slovenia, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Italy and Greece, up to a high of nine in Romania and about eight in Bulgaria.
(Photo: Lech Karol Pawłaszek)