News / Health

Life Expectancy Gap Widens Between Women in Rich and Poor Countries

Lisa Schlein
The World Health Organization reports women aged 50 and older globally are healthier now than they were 20 and 30 years ago.   But while women’s health has improved, a new WHO study finds the gap in life expectancy is widening between older women in rich and poor countries.

The World Health Organization reports heart disease and stroke and cancers are the leading causes of death of women aged 50 years and older worldwide.  But, it notes these deaths occur at earlier ages in the developing countries.

The study is one of the first to analyze the causes of death of women aged 50 and more from a range of rich and poor countries.  It finds many of these women are meeting an early death because they live in countries that lack the money and resources to prevent, detect and treat non-communicable diseases.

The head of the WHO Mortality and Burden of Disease Unit, Colin Mathers, says developed countries have the health systems and means to reduce and control cardiovascular problems.  He tells VOA screening and treatment programs also are successfully reducing the incidence of breast and cervix cancers.

He notes cervical cancer is one of the leading cancers in African women.  He says the illness is largely preventable, but African countries have fewer resources to treat it.

“There is simply not enough money to provide high quality health care to everyone that is accessible.  And, also a matter of human resources, that there often are not enough trained doctors and nurses and other health professionals in the country.  And, that is made worse by the brain drain where African nurses can migrate to high-income countries to get jobs in their health systems and so some of the training that is done in developing countries ends up not benefiting them," he said.

Dr. Mathers says donors give relatively little money toward the problem of non-communicable diseases in African countries because they tend to focus on reducing maternal mortality.  While this is understandable, he notes maternal mortality rates are going down substantially.  At the same time, he says death rates among older women are going up, so it is time for donors to rethink their priorities.

Thanks to improvements in health, the Study finds women over 50, on average, have gained 3.5 years in life expectancy over the past 20 years.  It notes older women in Germany and Japan now can expect to live to 84 and 88 years respectively and women in many other developed countries can expect to live to age 83 or 84.

The report says life expectancy for women in the poorer countries is about 10 years less.  It notes women in Eastern Europe also die at an earlier age because of high rates of cardiovascular disease, accidents, and high alcohol consumption.

Dr. Mathers says major risk factors for older women include smoking, the harmful use of alcohol, overweight and obesity.

“Many of the problems faced by older women start earlier in life.  So, smoking for example-people typically develop the habit at earlier ages.  So, it is not only about intervening in older years-improving conditions and education and providing information to younger people can ultimately assist in improving health at older ages as well," he said.

The World Health Organization says the epidemic of chronic diseases can be reversed with available cost-effective ways to address common non-communicable diseases.  These include prevention, early diagnosis and management of high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol.

The study says inexpensive and simple tests for the screening and early detection of cervical cancer can save many lives.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs