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March 8, 2017

Life Expectancy in Rich Countries

The process of forecasting demographics is not an easy one; and when you try to factor in other, independent variables, it becomes even more complex.

A study of life expectancies
Yet the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and others offer forecasts that are remarkably like each other. However, a new study was recently released by researchers at Imperial College London and the WHO. Published in in the UK medical journal Lancet, it delivers fascinating statistics on longevity in 35 rich countries, using a combination of 21 statistical models, instead of just one,

Some major surprises
Leading the world in boosting longevity is South Korea, where a girl born in 2030 would likely live to age 90. Interestingly, the study found that Sweden, Japan, and other countries can expect smaller gains. Most surprising, the study predicts that life expectancy in some poorer countries, like Mexico and Croatia, will soon surpass that of the US. The Economist, Magazine reports that in the US, "If Republican plans to repeal Barack Obama's health law end up reducing access to care, this trend might accelerate."

Why South Korea fares so well
The main reasons for South Korea's longevity gains will be big reductions in child mortality, deaths from infections, and deaths from diseases related to high blood pressure. Fewer South Koreans have high blood pressure than in any other country. Moreover, fewer South Koreans suffer from obesity. Obesity increases the susceptibility to several chronic illnesses, including diabetes, coronary artery disease, and cancer. Besides all this, smoking rates among women in this country remain low.

Obesity is a key consideration
One major reason for the US' poor showing is the high rate of obesity. More than one third (36.7 percent) of the US population is considered obese. Obesity was also the major factor in the poor showing made by women in France and Switzerland.

Where the gains are
"More than half of the projected gains in life expectancy at birth in women will be due to enhanced longevity above age 65 years." The fact that these gains will be in the later years will challenge governments to support these aging populations with "sufficient health and social care policies".

Haves vs. Have-Nots
Nowhere else in our view will the contrast between the haves and the have-nots be so acute. Having access to affordable healthcare will begin to be a consideration for aging populations, affecting all kinds of decisions, including where to live. In the US, as fewer and fewer physicians accept Medicare, we expect to see pockets of population emerging around areas where people can find affordable healthcare.


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