We all hope to live to see our grandkids and great-grandkids grow up, but are we closer to making that a reality now than ever before? A recent study suggests that by 2030 the global life expectancy will rise dramatically, especially among South Koreans that may live up to age 90.
A team of scientists from Imperial College London collaborated with the World Health Organization to develop a Bayesian model averaging (BMA) system which would analyze age data for 35 industrialized countries. They studied age-specific death rates, the life expectancy of people at different ages and the likelihood of dying before age 70.
The researchers used data dating back to 1985 from countries ranging from high-income nations like the United States, to growing countries like Poland and Mexico in order to determine the health of each country’s citizens. Studying longevity is just “one measure of the overall health of a population,” said Imperial researcher James Bennett.
According to their findings, South Korea will have some of the highest life expectancy rates. A baby girl born in 2030 would have an average life expectancy of 90.8 years, and a baby boy would be expected to live 84.1 years.
Majid Ezzati, a lead researcher from the School of Public Health at Imperial, explained that “many people used to believe that 90 years is the upper limit for life expectancy, but this research suggests we will break the 90-year-barrier.” Advances in medical technology, access to healthcare, improved nutrition for children and a growing economy are just a few of the factors that likely play into South Korea’s growing life expectancy.
Among other high-income countries, unfortunately the United States ranked the lowest with a life expectancy of 83.3 years for women and 79.5 years for men in 2030. To put this into perspective, French women are expected to live until age 88.6 and Swiss and Australian men until age 84.
Bennett believes that this low life expectancy for Americans is due to a lack of universal healthcare, high homicide rates and high obesity rates. The research also suggests that the historically large gap between men and women’s life expectancy is closing.
“Men traditionally had unhealthier lifestyles, and so shorter life expectancies,” Ezzati said. As men’s and women’s lifestyles become more similar, longevity follows suit.
Imperial researcher’s findings could help governments to plan more effectively for health and social services and the team hopes to study cause specific mortality to better understand the diseases that seriously impact humans. The study provides valuable insight into human life expectancy and highlights the progress in some countries, and the shortcomings in others.
Top photo by Pedro Ribeiro Simões, CC BY 2.0
Lauren Leising is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.