Life expectancy in Cyprus has fallen from 82.4 years in 2020 to 81.7 years in 2022 after dropping to a low of 81.3 years in 2021, according to an EU health report.

Despite the drop, life expectancy in Cyprus is a year above the EU average, which is 80.7 years. Also, on average in 2022 Cypriot women live almost four more years (83.6 years) than men (79.9 years). “This gender gap (3.7 years) is smaller than in most other EU countries,” said the EU report, which blamed the pandemic for the drop in life expectancy.

As far as excess deaths were concerned, the report showed that the broader excess mortality index, defined as deaths from all causes at levels above what would be expected based on mortality over the previous five years, showed that excess deaths in Cyprus were higher in 2020 (by about 13 per cent), in 2021 by 23 per cent and in 2022 by 25 per cent above the average of the previous five years.

In 2020, around 2 per cent of all deaths were attributed to Covid-19. In 2021, this rose to 8.4 per cent, or 619 deaths in 2021. The average age of those who died from Covid was 80 years.

In 2021, heart disease accounted for 7.8 per cent of deaths, and diabetes 6.8 per cent. Other causes of death in 2021 were Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia (5.6 per cent), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (2.2 per cent), strokes (4.9 per cent), deaths due to falls (0.9 per cent), transport accidents (0.7 per cent) and suicides (0.3 per cent).

As far as cancer is concerned, the highest percentage of deaths due to cancer concerned lung cancer (4.4 per cent), followed by breast cancer (2.1 per cent), colorectal cancer (1.9 per cent), prostate cancer (1.5 per cent) and pancreatic cancer (1.4 per cent).

In 2021, the umbrella term of ‘circulatory system diseases’ were the leading cause of death in Cyprus, accounting for 25 per cent of all deaths, followed by cancer (22 per cent).

“While mortality rates from circulatory diseases have decreased in the last decade, mortality rates from cancer have remained unchanged,” the report added.

In 2022, more than three quarters (78 per cent) of the Cypriot population reported being in good health, which is a higher proportion than the EU average (68 per cent).

“However, as in other EU countries, people on higher incomes are more likely to report good health than those on lower incomes with 87 per cent in the highest income quintile reported being in good health compared to 61 per cent in the lowest,” the report said.

Also, women live a greater portion of their lives after age 65 with health issues and disabilities, according to the report.

Some 44 per cent of Cypriot women aged 65 and over reported multiple chronic conditions in 2020 compared to 30 per cent of men.

As far as the excess deaths are concerned, the report suggests that the number of deaths related to Covid during the three years could be higher than reported, or that the disruption to health services during the pandemic, such as suspension of outpatient care and cancellations of scheduled surgeries may have resulted in increased mortality from other causes.

It also said that low coverage of second booster vaccinations among older age groups is likely to have contributed to the rise in excess mortality in 2021 and 2022 though the second booster was not rolled out until July 2022.

According to the report, the Covid pandemic tested the resilience of the Cypriot health system and restricted capacity for elective procedures. Before the pandemic, the volume of some elective surgical procedures was below the EU average, and volumes fell further in 2020. But in 2021 there was a surge in the volume of care provided to address the backlog and avoid increased waiting times, it said.