Population census. The proportion of people with a religious affiliation remains stable, Orthodox Christianity is still the most widespread
29% of people in Estonia are estimated to be affiliated with a religion. This figure has remained unchanged over the last three population censuses. However, the proportion of people who do not feel an affiliation to any religion has increased – from 54% in 2011 to 58% in 2021. The most prevalent religion in Estonia is Orthodox Christianity.
Information on religion was collected in the population and housing census, which took place from the end of 2021 to the beginning of 2022. All people aged 15 and over were asked whether they had a religious affiliation. Membership in a church or congregation or whether a person was baptised and attended church regularly or was a member of some non-Christian association was not relevant. Responses collected are generalisable to the whole population aged 15 and over.
29% of Estonia’s population feel an affiliation to a religion, whereas 58% do not, and 13% were not willing to answer this question. Therefore, the proportion of the religiously affiliated has remained stable but the share of people who do not have an affiliation to any religion has risen compared with previous censuses: from 54% in 2011 to 58% in 2021. “The increase is due to the fact that this time there were fewer people who did not wish to answer the religion question, so it can be assumed that they now held a more definite view,” said Terje Trasberg, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia.
The most common denominations are still Orthodoxy and Lutheranism. People with other religious affiliations account for 5% of the population. Orthodox Christians make up 16% and Lutherans 8% of the populace. While the share of people feeling an affiliation to Orthodoxy has remained unchanged, the proportion of people with an affiliation to Lutheranism has been on a downward trend: in the 2000 census, 14% of persons were affiliated with Lutheranism, whereas by 2011 their share had fallen to 10%, and now it is only 8%.
When it comes to different religions, Christianity is the most widespread in Estonia. Of those who feel an affiliation to a religion, 93% are now Christians, down from 97% in 2011. Apart from those feeling an affiliation to Orthodoxy and Lutheranism, people of other religious affiliations make up a marginal share of the population and their proportions have generally remained the same or risen slightly. For example, an increase by 0.4 percentage points was recorded in the proportion of Catholics (0.4% in 2011 and 0.8% in 2021) and Muslims (0.1% in 2011 and 0.5% in 2021).
There are more religiously affiliated people among the elderly and women
Religious affiliation varies by sex, age, educational attainment, and nationality, among other factors. Women are more likely than men to have an affiliation to a religion. 32% of women report having a particular religious affiliation and 55% are non-believers, while 25% of men are religiously affiliated and 63% are non-believers.
While 43% of people aged 65 and over feel an affiliation to a religion, only 14% of people in the 15–29 age group do. „For almost all religions, the proportion of younger followers is lower than that of older ones,” said Trasberg.
In terms of educational attainment, the share of persons with a religious affiliation is larger among people with higher education – 34%. Among people with secondary education, 28% report being affiliated with a religion, and the corresponding figure for people with basic education is 21%.
In comparison with other nationalities, there are more people without a religious affiliation among Estonians
Compared with other major ethnic groups living in this country, Estonians are the least religiously affiliated nationality – only 17% of them have an affiliation to a religion, while 71% are non-believers. The percentage of the religiously affiliated is higher among Slavs – 65% of Belarusians, 56% of Ukrainians, and 54% of Russians feel an affiliation to a religion.
Half, or 50%, of people of Russian nationality feel an affiliation of Orthodoxy, compared with 47% of Ukrainians and 58% of Belarusians. The most prevalent religion among Estonians, however, is Lutheranism – 11% of them feel affiliated with it, while 3% have an affiliation to Orthodoxy. People of other nationalities are most likely to be affiliated with Orthodoxy (15%) and Islam (14%).
Information on religion was collected through the population and housing census survey from the end of 2021 to the beginning of 2022. Respondents could fill in the survey online and people living at sample addresses could also do it by phone. All people aged 15 and over were asked whether they had a religious affiliation. Answering questions about personal beliefs (including religious affiliation) was optional. Nearly half of the total population participated in the survey and the distributions were calculated taking into account the people who refused to answer the question. Answers to the questions on religious affiliation are generalisable to the whole population aged 15 and over. The aim of the survey was to find estimates for the questions asked. A more detailed description of the survey can be found in the methodology document (In Estonian).
For more information on religion collected during the population census, visit rahvaloendus.ee. The data are published in the statistical database.
For further information:
Helen Maria Raadik
Media Relations Manager
Marketing and Dissemination Department
Tel +372 625 9181
press [at] stat.ee