A new study suggests that average life expectancy is set to increase worldwide by 2030, both at birth and by the age of 65. These two time points are what help define when lifespans in a certain population are lengthening, due to things like better maternal and child health, and improved adult health.
In 2015, global average life expectancy was only at 71.4 years, reports the World Health Organization. But in many countries, the average for women at birth should surpass 85 years in the next 30-40 years.
Less healthy lifestyles among men, such as higher smoking rates and more alcohol consumption, have already put women at an advantage when it comes to living well into old age, the researchers say. Men in South Korea are expected to average 84.1 years in life expectancy by 2030.
However, the study authors likewise believe this gap between men and women is fast closing as lifestyles are becoming more similar.
Majid Ezzati, professor of global environmental health at Imperial College London and lead author, says,
The biggest result is that…at least one group is going to break the 90-year barrier.
He is referring to South Korean women, as the researchers did not believe at first that the average would exceed 90.
He adds, “This shows that even if there is a limit to longevity, we are nowhere near it. We should be planning for more life.”
The research analyzed data on mortality and longevity patterns from 35 industrialized countries, including high-income and emerging ones. They calculated life expectancy using information on the age at which people die across a population. For example, high mortality rates among infants and more deaths among teenagers due to violence will bring a country’s average down.
With South Korea, greater equality, better health care, good diets and lifestyles that are embedded in their culture brought their numbers up.
Ezzati says, “Places like South Korea and some emerging economies, Switzerland and Canada do very well. South Korea has had remarkable success.”
He also credits South Korea’s excellent chances at living longer to the nation’s investment in good childhood nutrition and education, technology, low levels of smoking, low blood pressure and efficient access to health care. He says, “What South Korea has done goes completely against some Western countries … against the prosperity agenda.”
The study was published in The Lancet.