Kiwis living longer, but at a cost

Kiwis living longer, but at a cost

While global life expectancy has increased dramatically over the last two-and-a-half decades, so have the number of years the average person will spend in ill-health.

A large study looking at birth and mortality in 188 countries has found life expectancy at birth has risen by 6.2 years, from 65.3 in 1990 to 71.5 in 2013 reports The Lancet.

Healthy life expectancy meanwhile has risen only 5.4 years – from 56.9 to 62.3 – meaning the average person spends an additional nine or 10 months unwell or suffering from a disability.

New Zealand men born in 2013 can expect to live 78.6 years, 6.5 years longer than those born in 1990, and women, 82 years, five years longer than in 1990; while on average, both will spend an extra 18 months in ill-health.

Countries that showed significant life expectancy gains include Ethiopia, Nicaragua and Cambodia, where people born today will generally live about 14 years longer than the previous generation.

"Ethiopia has made impressive gains in health over the past two decades, with significant decreases in rates of diarrheal disease, lower respiratory infection, and neonatal disorders," says Dr Tariku Jibat Beyene of Addis Ababa University.

"But ailments such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and stroke are causing an increasing amount of health loss. We must remain vigilant in addressing this new reality of Ethiopian health."

Countries that went backwards include Lesotho and Swaziland, where life expectancy has decreased by a decade, with smaller drops recorded in South Africa, Botswana, Belize, Belarus and Paraguay.

Despite progress in recent years, the fastest-growing global cause of health loss since 1990 has been HIV/AIDS. Heart disease, stroke, lower back and neck pain and road injuries are all on the rise, while  diarrhea, birth complications and respiratory infections have all declined.

The 10 countries with the highest life expectancy at birth are Japan, Singapore, Andorra, Iceland, Cyprus, Israel, France, Italy, South Korea and Canada.

The 10 lowest are Lesotho, Swaziland, Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Chad, South Sudan and Zambia.

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