We are living for longer. In fact, according to the World Bank, life expectancy across the globe has on average risen by four months every year since 1970 and between 1980 and 1998 the world’s life expectancy increased from 61 to 67 years. 100 years ago you were lucky to live to 50. Of course, this is a worldwide average and national life expectancies vary from country to country, sometimes quite dramatically.
It will come as no surprise to learn that if you are born into a wealthy, developed country you will generally have a far higher life expectancy than if you were given life in an impoverished, developing one. Babies born today in a developed country could expect to live to the grand old age of 100, whereas life expectancy in some impoverished countries is little more than 50 (similar to that of someone living in a developed country 100 years ago). Life expectancy rates are determined by a number of factors, all of which are explored in this article.
It’s a simple truth that money makes the world go round. Governments and families without the funds to offer or access medical care, food, and education will suffer when it comes to both potential and life expectancy. Sadly, a weak economy can destabilise governments and cause anger amongst the people which can lead to war, a massive human threat to life expectancy.
Human beings depend on the environment for their survival. Without nutritious food grown in fertile soil, safe water to drink, clean air to breathe, and fuel to keep us warm and to cook or boil water, we simply would not survive. Those living in countries without adequate supply of one or more of these necessities are therefore likely to have a lower life expectancy.
In countries without adequate medical care, people are dying from illnesses, infections and diseases which are easily treatable with the correct care, immunisations or treatments. When people are further weakened by hunger they are even more likely to pick up and die from easily treatable illnesses such as the flu and diarrhoea. Once a child is past five, they have a far greater chance of living a long life as their bodies are stronger and can more easily fight off infections.
All of these factors play a part in determining life expectancy but it is interesting to note that there are some discrepancies. Although it is still the case that if you are born in a high-income country your life expectancy is greater than someone born in a low-income family, it totally depends on how you treat your body. Developing countries suffer from major problems with obesity and alcohol, drug, cigarette, and stress-related diseases, all of which threaten lives.
The increase in life expectancy over the past 100 years can largely be attributed to a parallel increase in the knowledge, technology and availability of medical care, but education, a more varied diet, and an increase in exercise and time spent outdoors have all contributed.
Emily Buckley is a journalist working for Pinnacle Life, an award-winning life insurance company based in New Zealand.