Israelis' Life Expectancy Has Risen by Two Years Over Past Decade

The average age of marriage and of first-time mothers is also going up, according to data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Life expectancy in Israel rose by more than two years in the past decade, to 79.9 years for men and 83.6 for women. Since the late 1970s life expectancy for Israelis rose by 8.7 years for men and 8.9 years for women. This, according to data released on Monday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

In 2011, Israeli men tied with Sweden in fourth place for life expectancy in OECD member states, after Iceland, Switzerland and Italy. Israeli women, while living longer on average than their male counterparts, were in 13th place among OECD countries.

The longevity of Israelis overall can be seen as a testament to the quality of the country’s health system, but a closer look at the numbers reveals a gap between Jews and Arabs: The average life expectancy for Israeli Jews exceeds that of Israeli Arabs by more than three years, by 3.7 years for men and 3.3 years for women in 2012.

Israel’s population is young by Western standards, with 28.2% under the age of 14 and just 10.4% aged 64 and up. While the population is aging, the pace of the increase in age is moderate. In 2012 the percentage of Israelis aged 75 and over was 4.8%, up from 3.8% in the early 1990s. In 2012 the median age was 29.6 years, compared to 27.6 years in 2000.

The rapid rise in life expectancy poses serious challenges for the state in issues ranging from pension funding to health services and the labor force.

Israel has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, at 3.5 deaths in the first year of live per 1,000 live births - down from 5.4 in 2002 - compared to an average of 4.0 in OECD states.

Here, too, there is a significant gap between Jews and Arabs. Infant mortality among Israeli Arabs was 6.5 per 1000 live births, compared to 2.7 for Jews. And while overall infant mortality rates dropped over the past decade, the gap between Jews and Arabs increased.

A total of 170,940 children were born in Israel in 2012, a rise of 2.8% over 2011. Of these, 73% were to Jewish women and 24% to Arabs.

The average number of children born to each woman in Israel also rose, to 3.05. The fertility rate for Jewish women was 3.04 in 2012, up from 2.98 in 2011 and the highest since 1976. Among Muslim women the fertility rate rose to 3.54 in 2012, from 3.51 in 2011 to 3.54 in 2012. Druze women have 2.26 children on average, while Christian women have the lowest number, 2.17.

The leading cause of death in 2011 was cancer, accounting for 25.3% of all deaths, while heart disease accounted for 16.1%, cerebrovascular disease accounted for 6.0% and diabetes accounted for 5.4%. Nondisease causes such as accidents, murder and suicide accounted for 4.7% of all deaths.

The data showed that Israeli Jews are marrying later. One result of this change is the growing number of singles in their mid-to-late 30s. According to the CBS, 64% of Jewish men and 46% of Jewish women between the ages of 25 and 29 were single in 2011, compared to 54% and 38%, respectively, a decade ago. Among the Muslim population, only 45% of men and 19% of women in this age group were single.

Women are also giving birth for the first time later in life, at the age of 27.3 on average, compared to 25.1 years in 1994. For Jewish and Muslim women the average age at the birth of their first child is 28.2 and 23.5 years, respectively.


The number of Israelis who report being satisfied with their lives is also up, to 88% in 2012 from 83% in 2002. More than half of respondents, 52%, said they believe things will improve in the coming years; 60% reported being satisfied with their financial situation, while 45% believe this will improve. The number of people who reported feeling lonely occasionally or frequently fell, meanwhile, to 26%, from 32% a decade ago.

The average Israeli household consists of 3.3 persons - 3.1 for Jews and 4.8 for Muslims. One-fifth of Israeli households consist of one person, while 12% of families with children under the age of 17 are headed by a single parent.

The fertility rate is highest among Jewish women in the West Bank, (4.97 children per woman of childbearing age), followed by Jerusalem (4.01), southern Israel (3.46), central Israel (2.77), northern Israel (2.72) and Tel Aviv (2.60). Haifa ends the list with an average of 2.55 children per woman.

Jewish families in the West Bank are the largest in the country, averaging 4.6 persons, while Tel Aviv’s are the smallest, at 3.2. Tel Aviv also has the largest percentage of families with no children in the country, at 32%. Only 24% of all Israeli families are childless. The Tel Aviv area also has the lowest proportion of families with children under 17 (39%), compared to a national average of 49%.

There are 981 men for every 1,000 women in Israel, overall. Up to the age of 29 there are more men, at age 30 the proportion shifts. At the age of 75, there are only 692 men for every 1,000 women.

Most Jews living in Israel today - 74% - were born here. In 1948, the year the state was founded, that proportion was only 35%.

Elderly Israeli couple.Credit: Hadar Cohen
Israeli brides throw up their bouquets after exchanging marriage vows in a mass civil ceremony in Cyprus in 2011.Credit: AP

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