Global life expectancy has decreased since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest United Nations (UN) population report released on July 11, 2022.
Declining levels of mortality are one of the factors contributing to population growth. This is reflected in increased levels of life expectancy at birth.
Global Life Expectancy At Birth Fell To 71 Years In 2021
According to the report titled World Population Prospects 2022, global life expectancy at birth reached 72.8 years in 2019. There had been an increase of almost nine years in global life expectancy since 1990. However, in 2021, global life expectancy at birth fell to 71 years. In some countries, successive waves of the pandemic may have produced short-term reductions in numbers of pregnancies and births.
In 2050, further reductions in mortality are projected to result in an average longevity of around 77.2 years globally.
Male And Female Life Expectancies In 2021
According to the report, female and male life expectancies stood at 73.8 and 68.4, respectively, in 2021. This means that life expectancy at birth for women exceeds that for men by 5.4 years globally.
In all regions and countries, a female survival advantage is observed, the report says. The female survival advantage ranges from seven years in Latin America and the Caribbean to 2.9 years in Australia and New Zealand.
Why Life Expectancy In Least Developed Countries Lagged Behind Global Average In 2021
According to the report, the gap in life expectancy at birth between certain groups of countries remains wide. Life expectancy in the least developed countries lagged seven years behind the global average in the year 2021. This was largely due to persistently high levels of child and maternal mortality. In some countries, violence and conflict, or the continuing impact of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic resulted in the life expectancy lagging seven years behind the global average.
There is a female advantage in life expectancy. As a result, women outnumber men at older ages in almost all populations. According to the report, women comprised 55.7 per cent of persons aged 65 or older in 2022. The percentage of women aged 65 or older is projected to decline slightly to 54.5 per cent by 2050.
Covid-19 Pandemic Has Affected All Components Of Population Change
Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, global life expectancy at birth fell to 71 years in 2021, down from 72.8 in 2019. In 2019, there had been an improvement of almost nine years since 1990.
The impact of the pandemic on life expectancy has varied across regions and countries. For instance, life expectancy at birth in Central and Southern Asia and in Latin America and the Caribbean fell by almost three years between 2019 and 2021.
By contrast, the combined population of Australia and New Zealand gained 1.2 years due to lower mortality risks during the pandemic for some causes of death, the report says.
The pandemic has been responsible for a significant reduction in life expectancy at birth in some countries. Estimates of life expectancy at birth declined by more than four years between 2019 and 2022, for countries such as Bolivia, Botswana, Lebanon, Mexico, Oman, and the Russian Federation.
In Some Countries, Progress In Life Expectancy Was Slowing Even Before Covid-19 Pandemic
In some countries of Europe and North America, progress in life expectancy was already slowing even before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. For instance, in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, vital statistics point to levels of life expectancy for recent years that are lower than what was previously projected based on the historical trajectory of improvement in survival in each country, the report says.
The stagnating decline in cardiovascular disease mortality is one of the most important reasons behind the stalling life expectancy in the United States.
Life Expectancy At Birth Reached Close To 85 Years Or Above In Some Countries In 2021
In 2021, the disparity between the country with the highest and the country with lowest life expectancy at birth stood at 33.4, according to the report. Life expectancy at birth reached close to 85 years or above in 2021 in certain countries including Australia, the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions of China, and Japan. These are among the countries with a population of at least half a million in 2022.
Meanwhile, life expectancy at birth is the lowest in the Central African Republic, Chad, Lesotho and Nigeria. The life expectancy levels were below 54 years in 2021.
What Will Be The Global Life Expectancy At Birth By 2050?
Further increases in survival are expected to narrow but not eliminate differences in life expectancy across countries and regions, in the coming decades. Life expectancy at birth is projected to reach 77.2 years worldwide by 2050. A gap of 31.8 years is projected to remain between the countries with the lowest and the highest values.
As countries reach historically low levels of mortality, further reductions in death rates become more difficult to achieve and the rise in life expectancy slows down. This prompts a trend towards convergence between countries and regions over the long-term.
Epidemics And Health Crises Have Long-Lasting Effects On Life Expectancy At Birth
Life expectancy at birth declined during the late 1980s and 1990s in some regions, mainly due to the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa and the health crisis in Eastern Europe following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. According to the report, these setbacks have long-lasting effects on life expectancy at birth.
Life Expectancies In Different Countries In 2021
Life expectancy at birth ranged from less than 70 years in the Republic of Moldova and the Russian Federation to 84 years in Switzerland, in the year 2021.
Life expectancy at birth for women exceeded that for men by 5.4 years globally, in 2021. On average, women live longer than men at the global level.
Gap In Life Expectancy At Birth Between Males And Females Widened Further Due To Covid-19
According to the report, the female survival advantage or the female advantage in life expectancy at birth ranged from seven years in Latin America and the Caribbean to 2.9 years in Australia and New Zealand. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the gap in life expectancy at birth between the two sexes further widened.
The gap in life expectancy at birth between males and females reached 5.2 years in 2019. The sex gap in life expectancy at birth shrank in some regions in 2019. These include Australia and New Zealand, Europe and North America.
Meanwhile, the sex gap in life expectancy at birth increased in regions such as Central and Southern Asia, and Eastern and South-Eastern Asia.
According to the UN report, the Covid-19 pandemic contributed to a slight increase in the gap in life expectancy at birth between the sexes.
Impact Of HIV/AIDS Epidemic On Life Expectancy
Due to the increasing availability of antiretroviral treatments (ART), HIV-related mortality among adults has reached a peak over the past decade in most countries that have been highly affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
However, in countries where HIV prevalence has been high, the impact of the epidemic in terms of morbidity (rate of disease in a population), mortality and slower population growth continues to be prevalent.
Before the introduction of ART, life expectancy in Southern Africa, which is the sub-region with the highest prevalence of the disease, life expectancy at birth decreased from 63.1 years in 1990 to 53.1 years in 2005. According to the report, life expectancy in Southern Africa had returned to its 1990 level by 2015, and increased further to 65.5 in 2019.
Covid-19 Pandemic Removed Gains In Life Expectancy In Southern Africa
However, the Covid-19 pandemic contributed to removing the gains in life expectancy recorded in Southern Africa over the past decades with life expectancy at birth declining to 61.8 years in 2021.
According to the UN report, life expectancy at age 65 reflects the average number of additional years of life a 65-year-old person would live, depending on the prevailing mortality conditions. Before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2019, people who had already survived to age 65, could expect to live on average an additional 17.5 years worldwide, the report says.
This is 6.2 years longer than a person of the same age in the early 1950s. In the year 2019, women aged 65 years could expect to live an additional 18.8 years and 65-year-old men an additional 15.9 years, the report says.
Countries With Highest Life Expectancies At Birth And Age 65 In 2021
Australia, Hong Kong Special administrative regions of China, Macao Special administrative regions of China, and Japan had the highest life expectancies at birth, and at age 65, in the year 2021, among the countries and areas with at least half a million population. The life expectancies at birth were about 85 years, and the life expectancies at age 65 were at levels of 21.6 years and above.
According to the UN report, a decrease in mortality from non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease and other age-related chronic conditions are expected to continue contributing to the extension of life. A 65-year-old person is expected to live on average an additional 19.8 years in 2050 globally.
Decrease In Global Life Expectancy At Age 65 Between 2019 And 2021
The global life expectancy at age 65 lost 1.2 years between 2019 and 2021, based on the latest available estimates of the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on mortality, the report says. All the regions of the world, except Australia and New Zealand, experienced a decline in the average number of years a 65-year-old person could expect to live.
According to the report, the decline was the strongest in Central and Southern Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. In Central and Southern Asia, the average number of years a 65-year-old person could expect to live declined by 2.3 years. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the same declined by 1.5 years.
Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic contributed to a loss of 1.7 years in life expectancy at birth between 2019 and 2021, the report says.
Life expectancy at birth was assumed to return to pre-pandemic levels and trends in 2022 for countries with high vaccination prevalence, according to the UN report.
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