Global Health Observatory (GHO)

Life expectancy

Situation

Life expectancy at birth reflects the overall mortality level of a population. It summarizes the mortality pattern that prevails across all age groups in a given year – children and adolescents, adults and the elderly. In 2012, life expectancy at birth for both sexes globally was 70 years, ranging from 62 years in low-income countries to 79 years in high-income countries, giving a ratio of 1.3 between the two income groups. Women live longer than men all around the world. The gap in life expectancy between the sexes was 5 years in 1990 and had remained the same by 2012. The gap is much larger in high-income countries (more than six years) than in low-income countries (around three years).

Since 1990, life expectancy at birth has increased globally by 6 years, but during the 1990s the value in Europe has showed a stagnation, and in Africa it has even decreased. For Europe, the phenomenon is due mainly to adverse mortality trends in the former Soviet Union countries. The decrease in Africa has been caused by HIV/AIDS, but the increasing availability of antiretroviral therapy has reduced the spread of the epidemic, and the mortality due to HIV/AIDS has been decreasing since about 2005, allowing life expectancy at birth to increase again: average life expectancy at birth in Africa, was 50 years in 2000, whereas it was 58 years in 2012.

Life expectancy at age 60 reflects the overall mortality level of a population over 60 years. In 2012, the global population aged 60 years can expect to live another 20 years on average, 2 years longer than in 1990. Life expectancy at age 60 in high-income countries (23 years) is 6 years longer than that in low-income and lower-middle income countries (17 years). Life expectancies at age 60 were longer and the increases larger in high-income countries. In such countries, life expectancy at age 60 had increased by almost as much as life expectancy at birth – around three years for both men and women.

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