New data show life expectancy rose by five years between 2000 and 2015, the fastest increase since the 1960s. But the World Health Organization, which has just issued its latest World Health Statistics report, finds major inequalities persist both within and among countries, despite people living an average of five years longer now than before the turn of the century.
The contrast is borne out by statistics which show people in 12 developed countries can expect to live 82 years or more, compared to people in 22 developing countries who die before they reach age 60.
Switzerland, Iceland, Australia, Sweden, and Israel are the five countries with the highest life expectancy at birth, while Chad, Ivory Coast, Central African Republic, Angola, and Sierra Leone are the lowest ranked.
Africa sees sharpest increase
Although five African countries are at the bottom of the rankings, the WHO reports the greatest increase in life expectancy since 2000 has been made in the African region.
Ties Boerma, WHO's director of information, evidence and research, says life expectancy has risen by 9.4 years to 60 years in Africa. He says that is mainly due to improvements in child survival, progress in malaria control and, expanded access to anti-retroviral treatment of HIV.
He told VOA that although the gap in life expectancy between Africa and Europe remains large, inroads to narrowing it are being made.
“The difference between Europe and Africa in life expectancy in 2015 is 17 years - 78 years in Europe, 61 years in Africa. In the year 2000, it was five years bigger… I think with these kind of figures, one can see how much progress has been made and that continuing along this road would really make major progress,” Boerma said.
On average, the report says women live longer than men in every country of the world. Overall, women can expect to live to nearly 74 years of age, more than four-and-a-half years longer than men.