Live long in Andorra and Japan

Latest global survey of life expectancy shows steady increases for most of the world since 2000

The latest issue of The Lancet contains multiple articles on the Global Burden of Disease study, an ongoing, multinational project to measure longevity, health and disease impact around the world. The latest (2010) survey, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, finds that overall global life expectancy has increased from 64.2 to 67.5 for men, and from 69.8 to 73.3 for women. The US’ figures are, respectively, 75.9 and 80.5.

Such studies are enormously complex, factoring in age cohorts, fertility, reporting mechanisms and other factors—but even so, it’s an interesting way to look at the combination of lifestyle and healthcare by nation. A considerable portion of the debate over Obamacare for the past few years has focused on disparities in healthcare based on economic status; these data put some of that debate on a worldwide scale.

The longest-lived men today, according to GBD, are in Andorra, where they live to be 79.8; for women, it’s Japan: 85.9. The average for all “Western Europe” (perhaps the closest comparator to the US) is 77.9 for men, 83.2 for women. The far-and-away leader in decline of life expectancy was Haiti, where the latest data put the average for men at 32.5, and for women at 43.6—but the Haitian earthquake is certainly a factor there.