Global life expectancy on rise, major inequalities persist
Life expectancy increased by 5 years between 2000 and 2015, the fastest increase since the 1960s. Those gains 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 Region of WHO 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.”
Global life expectancy for children born in 2015 was 71.4 years (73.8 years for females and 69.1 years for males), but an individual child’s outlook depends on where he or she is born.
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.
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. People in Sierra Leone have the world’s lowest life-expectancy for both sexes: 50.8 years for women and 49.3 years for men.
Healthy life expectancy, a measure of the number of years of good health that a newborn in 2015 can expect, stands at 63.1 years globally (64.6 years for females and 61.5 years for males).
This year’s World Health Statistics 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.
The report highlights significant data gaps that will need to be filled in order to reliably track progress towards the health-related SDGs. For example, an estimated 53% of deaths globally aren’t registered, although several countries – including Brazil, China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, South Africa and Turkey – have made considerable progress in that area. ■