People in France live longer and healthier lives, new study shows

The number of years that people in France can expect to live in good health continues to rise but women’s final years are less healthy overall than men’s, according to the latest official figures.

People in France live longer and healthier lives, new study shows
Photo: AFP

Life expectancy stood at 85.3 years for females and 79.4 years for males in 2018 – among the highest in the world – but a new government analysis shows a big difference on the quality of life in the final years between males and females.

Women on average in France can expect to live until the age of 64.5 years without suffering any debilitating health problem, while the average age for men living a healthy life is 63.4 years, according to the latest official figures.

Those figures were a slight increase on the previous year, according to the stats from the government’s department of research and statistics evaluation (DREES).

The figures are based on statistics used to draw up the Healthy Life Years indicator (HLY), a Europe-wide structural indicator compiled by the European Union’s statistics body, Eurostat. 

The HLY is basically a way to express disability-free life expectancy.

The DREES figures also show that disability-free life expectancy for people in France who have reached the age of 65 in good health has gone up for both men and women over the past decade  – by one year and five months for men and one year and two months for women.

The men in this category can expect to live another 10.1 years in good health, while women can expect a further 11.2 years of good health.

But that still means that women, who in general live six years longer than men, are more likely to spend their last years with a major health problem that prevents them living a normal life.


Such figures are often used by politicians or activists who call for the retirement age to be lowered in France from the current 62 years.

“At the moment when you are about to retire, this corresponds statistically with the moment that your first health problems begin,” Adrien Quatennens, a member of parliament from the far-left La France Insoumise party, told RTL radio in August.


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France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.