Life expectancy rises in poor nations, UN reports

May 15, 2014
Credit: Rostislav Kralik/public domain

Life expectancy in the globe's poorest countries has risen by an average of nine years over the past two decades, thanks to major improvements in infant health, the United Nations said Thursday.

In its annual statistics, the UN's World Health Organization (WHO) said that six of the had even managed to raise life expectancy to over 10 years between 1990 and 2012.

The top achiever was Liberia, where average lifespans increased by a full 20 years, from 42 to 62.

Next in line were Ethiopia (from 45 to 64 years), Maldives (58 to 77), Cambodia (54 to 72), East Timor (50 to 66) and Rwanda (48 to 65).

"An important reason why global life expectancy has improved so much is that fewer children are dying before their fifth birthday," WHO chief Margaret Chan said in a statement.

Globally, rose by six years during the same period.

Based on global averages, a girl who was born in 2012 can expect to live to around 73 years, and a boy to the age of 68, the WHO said.

"But there is still a major rich-poor divide: people in high-income countries continue to have a much better chance of living longer than people in low-income countries," Chan said.

A boy born in 2012 in a high-income country can expect to live to the age of around 76—16 years longer than a boy born in a low-income country.

For girls, the difference is even wider, with those in high-income countries likely to live to the age of 82 and those in poor nations to 63.

Female life expectancy in all the top 10 countries of the globe is 84 years or more, the WHO said.

Women in Japan enjoy the world's best life expectancy, at 87 years, followed by Spain, Switzerland and Singapore on 85.1 years each.

Life expectancy among men, meanwhile, is 80 years or more in nine countries, with the longest in Iceland (80.2), Switzerland (80.7) and Australia (80.5).

"In , much of the gain in life expectancy is due to success in tackling noncommunicable diseases," said Ties Boerma, head of the WHO statistics division.

"Fewer men and women are dying before they get to their 60th birthday from heart disease and stroke. Richer countries have become better at monitoring and managing for example," he added.

Declining tobacco use is also a key factor in helping people live longer in several countries, the WHO said.

At the other end of the scale, for both men and women is still less than 55 in nine sub-Saharan African countries: Angola, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Explore further: World population gains more than a decade's life expectancy since 1970

Related Stories

World population gains more than a decade's life expectancy since 1970

December 13, 2012
In the first Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 paper, published in The Lancet, the authors present new estimates of life expectancy for the last four decades in 187 different countries. While overall life expectancy is ...

Americans living longer than ever

January 6, 2014
(HealthDay)—Americans are living longer than ever and their life expectancy is increasing every year, federal health officials reported Monday.

Japanese women retake top spot for life expectancy

July 25, 2013
Japan's women retook their place as the world's longest-lived last year, edging out Hong Kongers as their life expectancy bounced back from the dip caused by the 2011 tsunami, officials said Thursday.

When will we all live to 100? 40 percent of girls born now expected to reach this milestone

January 22, 2013
An article from John Appleby, Chief Economist at the Kings Fund, published on BMJ website today brings attention to the rising amount of those expected to live to 100 and asks where it will end.

Recommended for you

The environmental injustice of beauty

August 16, 2017
Women of color have higher levels of beauty-product-related chemicals in their bodies compared to white women, according to a commentary published today in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The authors say ...

Heavily used pesticide linked to breathing problems in farmworkers' children

August 15, 2017
Elemental sulfur, the most heavily used pesticide in California, may harm the respiratory health of children living near farms that use the pesticide, according to new research led by UC Berkeley.

Taking a stand on staying mobile after 80

August 14, 2017
(HealthDay)—If you want to stay as fit as possible well into your 80s, the answer may be as simple as standing on your own two feet.

Binge-watching 'The Walking Dead?' You might feel like a zombie yourself

August 14, 2017
Binge-watching is a great way for young adults to catch up on multiple episodes of their favorite television series like "The Walking Dead" or "Game of Thrones," but it comes at a price.

Bugs on the menu at Swiss supermarket

August 14, 2017
Switzerland's first insect-based food aimed at humans will go on sale next week following a revision of the country's food safety laws, a supermarket chain said Monday.

Why social smoking can be just as bad for you as daily smoking

August 14, 2017
"Everything in moderation." It's a common justification made for behaviors that may fall outside the realm of healthy. Whether it's a drink or two or indulging in a favorite dessert, consuming small quantities, rather than ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.