Life Expectancy Increasing But Cancers, Heart Diseases Spreading

May 15, 2014 – People are living longer across the world and there are less deaths from infectious diseases but non-communicable diseases are now responsible for more than 60 percent of all premature mortality.

Globally, the average life expectancy for a girl born in 2012 is 72.7 years, and for a boy, 68.1 years. Life expectancy is highest for men in Iceland, 81.2 years, and for women in Japan, 87 years, according to a new WHO report.

There are still nine countries, all in sub-Saharan Africa, where life expectancy for both sexes is less than 55, among them Chad, Mozambique, Nigeria and Swaziland.

Syria is one of only one of a handful of countries where life expectancy has decreased, from 70 years in 1990 to 68 years in 2012 with a seven year decline in the average life expectancy of men responsible for the decrease. Other countries with a drop in life expectancy include South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland where the toll from HIV has hit hardest.

While deaths from infectious diseases are declining in developing countries, cancers, lung diseases and heart diseases are increasingly a cause of premature death due in part to urbanization which is resulting in less exercise, rising obesity rates, increased tobacco and alcohol use, and unhealthy diets.

Liberia recorded the greatest gain in life expectancy, from 42 years in 1990 to 62 in 2012, mostly as a result of the end of the country’s civil-war in 2003 as well as efforts to improve child and maternal health. Afghanistan, from 49 years in 1990 to 60 years in 2012 and Somalia, 47 to 53, also recorded gains in life expectancy.

The full report is here.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz