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 2011, life expectancy at birth globally was 70 years, ranging from 60 years in low-income countries to 80 years in high-income countries, giving a ratio of 1.3 between the two income groups.
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 56 years in 2011.
Life expectancy at age 60 reflects the overall mortality level of a population over 60 years. In 2011, 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 (24 years) is 7 years longer than that in low-income and lower-middle income countries (17 years).