Do women in Europe live longer and happier lives than men?

European Journal of Public Health, 28:5, 847–852 (2018)
Open Access


Background: The article examines gender differences in happy life expectancy at age 50 (LE50) and computes the age-specific contributions of mortality and happiness effects to gender differences in happy LE50 in 16 European countries.

Methods: Abridged life tables and happy LE50 were calculated using conventional life tables and Sullivan’s method. Age-specific death rates were calculated from deaths and population exposures in the Human Mortality Database. Happiness prevalence was estimated using the 2010–11 Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe. Happiness was defined using a single question about life satisfaction on a scale of 0–10. A decomposition algorithm was applied to estimate the exact contributions of the differences in mortality and happiness to the overall gender gap in happy LE50.

Results: Gender differences in happy LE50 favour women in all countries except Portugal (0.43 years in Italy and 3.55 years in Slovenia). Generally, the contribution of the gender gap in happiness prevalence is smaller than the one in mortality. The male advantage in the prevalence of happiness partially offsets the effects of the female advantage in mortality on the total gender gap in happy LE50. Gender differences in unhappy life years make up the greatest share of the gender gap in total LE50 in all countries except Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden.

Conclusion: Countries with the largest gender gap in LE are not necessarily the countries with larger differences in happy LE50. The remaining years of life of women are expected to be spent not only in unhealthy but also in unhappy state.

Das Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (MPIDR) in Rostock ist eines der international führenden Zentren für Bevölkerungswissenschaft. Es gehört zur Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, einer der weltweit renommiertesten Forschungsgemeinschaften.