Belgium drops from 8th to 15th place on the European ladder of healthy life years

Published on: 
Monday, July 16, 2018
Last updated on 7-9-2022 by Cassandre Dugailliez

Belgians lose on average 73 days due to disability or premature mortality.

Research by Sciensano (in collaboration with UCL) shows that Belgium is doing worse than other European countries when it comes to healthy years of life. On average, we lose 20,000 healthy life years per 100,000 inhabitants. Moreover, a third of our loss of healthy life years is due to modifiable risk factors. Specifically, we lose:

  • 2400 healthy years due to tobacco
  • 1800 healthy years due to unhealthy eating habits
  • 1600 healthy years due to alcohol.

Sciensano wants to focus more on such studies in the coming years, because they show to what extent we can effectively remain “healthy all life long”.

More information in the full version of the press release (only available in Dutch or French).

Consult the scientific publication of the research.

* Healthy life years are the years that you spend in good health, thus where you do not lose out on quality of life because of illness. Suppose that someone is born in perfect health, and that in theory they can reach the age of 90. Due to circumstances, however, that person becomes ill on their 20th birthday, whereby their quality of life decreases by a quarter. Ultimately, they continue to live with this disease for 40 years and die prematurely at the age of 60. The loss of healthy life years is then 40 years and the sum of:

  • the years lost due to disability: due to the disease the quality of life decreased by 25% for 40 years, thus corresponding to a total loss of (40x25% =) 10 healthy life years 
  • the years lost due to premature mortality: by dying at 60 instead of at the age of 90, the person in question loses (90-60 =) 30 years

This person thus lost a total of 40 healthy life years due to the combination of disability and death.


Brecht Devleesschauwer, scientist at Sciensano (Dutch & English)
Charline Maertens de Noordhout, ex-scientist at UCLouvain (French)

This studie was a collaboration with the Institut de recherche santé et société of the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain).

Associated health topics: 

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