Global life expectancy increases to 71.4 years

June 10, 2016


Babies born in 2015 can expect to live to 71.4 years (73.8 years for females; 69.1 years for males), but major inequalities persist within and among countries, according to the WHO report, “World Health Statistics: Monitoring Health for the Sustainable Development Goals”. 

The report brings together the most recent data on the health-related targets within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. Highlighting significant data gaps that will need to be filled if the new UN sustainable development targets are to be reached. 

With an average lifespan of 86.8 years, women in Japan can expect to live the longest. Switzerland enjoys the longest average survival for men, at 81.3 years. 

The shortest life expectancies are still in Africa. Babies born last year in Sierra Leone have a life expectancy of just over 50 years. Those in Angola, Central African Republic, Chad and Ivory Coast are expected to live only slightly longer. 

The gains since 2000 reverse declines during the 1990s, when life expectancy fell in Africa because of the AIDS epidemic and in Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

The increase was greatest in the African regions where life expectancy increased by 9.4 years to 60 years, driven mainly by improvements in child survival, progress in malaria control and expanded access to antiretrovirals for treatment of HIV. 

“The world has made great strides in reducing the needless suffering and premature deaths that arise from preventable and treatable diseases,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “But the gains have been uneven. Supporting countries to move towards universal health coverage based on strong primary care is the best thing we can do to make sure no-one is left behind.” 
The report shows that newborns in 29 countries – all of them high-income -- have an average life expectancy of 80 years or more, while newborns in 22 others – all of them in sub-Saharan Africa -- have life expectancy of less than 60 years. 

The report puts figures on some of the leading causes of death and ill-health that will affect the likelihood of meeting SDGs. Each year:

  • 303 000 women die due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth
  • 5.9 million children die before their fifth birthday
  • 2 million people are newly infected with HIV, and there are 9.6 million new TB cases and 214 million malaria cases
  • 1.7 billion people need treatment for neglected tropical diseases 
    more than 10 million people die before the age of 70 due to cardiovascular diseases and cancer
  • 800 000 people commit suicide
  • 1.25 million people die from road traffic injuries
  • 4.3 million people die due to air pollution caused by cooking fuels
  • 3 million people die due to outdoor pollution
  • 475 000 people are murdered, 80% of them men

Addressing those challenges will not be achieved without tackling the risk factors that contribute to disease. Around the world today:

  • 1.1 billion people smoke tobacco;
  • 156 million children under 5 are stunted, and 42 million children under 5 are overweight;
  • 1.8 billion people drink contaminated water, and 946 million people defecate in the open; and
  • 3.1 billion people rely primarily on polluting fuels for cooking.
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