Recent life expectancy divergence in Baltic countries
European Journal of Population, 27:4, 403–431 (2011)
Until the end of the 1990s, mortality patterns and trends in Estonia,
Latvia and Lithuania were remarkably similar. However, from the year 2000
onwards, life expectancy trends in the three countries started to diverge. In particular, sustainable progress in Estonia over the period 2000–2007 contrasts with stagnation in Latvia, and even worsening trends in Lithuania. These contradictory changes seem to be mainly explained by contrasting dynamics in mortality from cardiovascular diseases, external causes of death and digestive system diseases. Whereas cardiovascular and external-cause mortality declined in Estonia and Latvia, worsening or stagnation of mortality from these causes of death was observed in Lithuania. The negative mortality changes in Lithuania were also reinforced by a striking increase in mortality from alcohol-related digestive system diseases. The findings suggest that the divergence in health trends between the three countries may be attributable to their varying degrees of success in implementing structural health care reforms and specific health policy measures. By contrast, the very recent
improvement (since 2008) is parallel in the three countries and is largely because of the introduction of rather similar anti-alcohol measures.
Keywords: Baltic Countries, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, causes of death, mortality trends