Objectives: The group of individuals aged 80 and over is growing faster than other segments of the population, and within this group the number of centenarians has risen exponentially worldwide. This paper reports the numbers of centenarians (total, and ratio relative to total population) in 32 European countries and their key characteristics: gender distribution, level of education, and type of residence.
Study design: Population based study. Measures: We used national census data collected in 2011 for individuals aged 100 and over living in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. Data on gender, residence and education were used. Results: The total number of centenarians was 89156, corresponding to 17.3 centenarians per 100000 inhabitants of the total population and 98.0 centenarians per 100000 individuals aged 65 and older. Centenarian ratios were highest in France, Italy and Greece, and lowest in Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia. The percentage of men was 16.5% on average, and ranged from around 13% (Germany, Latvia, Belgium) to 37% (Hungary). Across Europe, 62.7% of the centenarians lived in private households, with a range from 10.9% (Iceland) to 90.0% (Romania). Education levels varied across countries, with an average of 13.6% having no formal education, ranging from 0.0% (the UK, Finland, Iceland) to 61.6% (Portugal). Conclusions: Centenarian numbers have increased substantially since last available data. The findings will inform specific health promotion policies, the strengthening of current services and the development of innovative care systems.