Global life expectancy used to be a pretty straightforward thing. As countries gained economic ground, we would see a slow, steady improvement in life expectancy. That is true no longer. Now we see countries sliding backwards, greater differences between men and women and even gaps between healthcare spending and life expectancy. Here are some top facts on global life expectancy based on new analysis techniques that compare almost 4000 sources of data.
Men typically live around 5 years less than women, but in Iceland that gap has been closing. In fact, Iceland is the best country for men to avoid any type of premature death. Why is this? No one really knows. It could be that the small size of Iceland impacts things like crime ares and violent death. That, combined with a decent health care system may just help men (on average) live a few years longer.
This one was a surprise to me: women living in Cyprus have the lowest risk, for women, of premature death. I have no idea why. The fact that both Iceland and Cyprus are small island nations may have something to do with it, or it could just be a statistical fluke.
Women Doing Great in South AsiaWomen have seen great gains in life expectancy in South Asia since 1970. South Asia used to have the highest risk of premature death for women. Since 1970, the risk has been more than halved.
Former Soviet Countries Losing GroundCountries that used to be part of the Soviet Union have lost ground when it comes to life expectancy and premature death. In fact, Russia has dropped from 43rd for female mortality in 1970 to 121st in 2010. This decline is due, in part, to collapsing health care systems.
Worst Places for Premature DeathThe worst mortality in the world was in sub-Saharan Africa, largely due to the AIDS epidemic. Swaziland was the worst country for men and Zambia was the worst for women.
U.S. Losing Ground TooThe United States, with it's massive spending on health care (the largest in the world both in total amount and per capital), is losing ground. In 1990, the United States was 34th (for women) and 41st (for men) and is 49th (for women) and 45th (for men) in terms of life expectancy in 2010. Why the change? Many researchers believe the percentage of overweight (60%) and obese (30%) Americans is taking a toll on the overall health of the nation.
Too Many Early DeathsAlmost 8 million children die each year before age 5 and over 24 million adults die before age 60 each year. These deaths are, by and large, preventable with proper health care and other interventions (like clean water). There should be a greater focus on preventing these deaths in the immediate future.
-This information was taken from a report published in the Lancet, a prestigious British Medical Journal. The report was authored by Christopher Murray, who is as famous as someone can be in the field of demography. The sport used new statistical methods using almost 4,000 measures to estimate premature death and life expectancy, which explains some of the differences between these numbers and numbers reported elsewhere. Read the full report:
Worldwide mortality in men and women aged 15–59 years from 1970 to 2010: a systematic analysis The Lancet, April 30, 2010. Published online ahead of print. Julie Knoll. Rajaratnam, Jake R. Marcus, Alison. Levin-Rector, Andrew N. Chalupka, Haidong. Wang, Laura. Dwyer, Megan. Costa, Alan D. Lopez, Christopher JL. Murray