Life expectancy is better than ever, at least in developed countries, according to the most recent statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) from 2007
Japan tops the list in terms of life expectancy at birth with 79 years for men, 86 years for women, and an overall life expectancy of 83 years in 2007. Not far behind are Italy, Switzerland and San Marino with an overall life expectancy of 82 years. Below is a list of countries whose population is expected live up to 80 or older:
- Japan – 83 years
- Andorra, Australia, Italy, Iceland, Switzerland and San Marino – 82 years
- Canada, France, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and Israel – 81 years
- Cyprus, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Malta – 80 years
The United States did not make it to the top 25, with a life expectancy at birth of 78 years.
On the other end of the spectrum are the following countries:
- Sierra Leone – 41 years
- Afghanistan – 42 years
- Lesotho and Zimbabwe – 45 years
- Chad and Zambia – 46 years
- Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Uganda – 48 years
- Burkina Faso, Burundi, Mali, and Nigeria – 49 years
The two lists above clearly show that life expectancy is highest in highly developed countries. A person born in Japan is most likely going to live twice as long as somebody born in Sierra Leone. Another trend to be seen in the figures is that life expectancy is increasing in high income countries but not in the low income countries.
German and Danish researchers report that 75% of children born in those countries with high life expectancy (e.g. 80+ years) will live up to the age of 75 if the health conditions stay as it is now. If health conditions improve and life expectancy continues to rise, children born since 2000 in rich countries can live up to 100.
This means that in rich countries, despite problems with obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic illnesses, people are living longer.
So why are people in rich countries living longer? The answer lies in better health care and advances in medical treatments.
This may sound great, especially for us who live in rich countries because it seems like we are finally winning the battle against aging and diseases. However, there are some downsides to this good news.
According to the study authors:
“Increasing numbers of people at old and very old ages will pose major challenges for health-care systems. Present evidence, however, suggests that people are not only living longer than they did previously, but also they are living longer with less disability and fewer functional limitations.”
According to Richard Suzman, an aging expert at the U.S. National Institute on Aging:
“We are within five to 10 years of a watershed event where there will be more people on Earth over 65 than there under five. Those extra years need to be financed somehow and we need to start thinking about it now.”
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