New York Times: Life Expectancy Rises Around the World, Study Finds
A sharp decline in deaths from malnutrition and diseases like measles and tuberculosis has caused a shift in global mortality patterns over the past 20 years, according to a new report, with far more of the world’s population now living into old age and dying from diseases more associated with rich countries, like cancer and heart disease.
The shift reflects improvements in sanitation, medical services and access to food throughout the developing world, as well as the success of broad public health efforts like vaccine programs. The results are dramatic: infant mortality has declined by more than half between 1990 and 2010, and malnutrition, the No. 1 risk factor for death and years of life lost in 1990, has fallen to No. 8.
At the same time, chronic diseases like cancer now account for about two out of every three deaths worldwide, up from just over half in 1990. Eight million people died of cancer in 2010, 38 percent more than in 1990. Diabetes claimed 1.3 million lives in 2010, double the number in 1990.
But while developing countries made big strides – the average age of death in Brazil and Paraguay, for example, jumped to 63 in 2010, up from 28 in 1970 – the United States stagnated. American women registered the smallest gains in life expectancy of all high-income countries between 1990 and 2010. The two years of life they gained was less than in Cyprus, where women gained 2.3 years of life, and Canada, where women gained 2.4 years. The slow increase caused American women to fall to 36th place in the report’s global ranking of life expectancy, down from 22nd in 1990. ...
... The World Health Organization issued a statement Thursday saying that some of the estimates in the report differ substantially from those done by United Nations agencies, though others are similar. All comprehensive estimates of global mortality rely heavily on statistical modeling because only 34 countries – representing about 15 percent of the world’s population – produce quality cause-of-death data. ...
Infant mortality and life expectancy at birth are probably the two best indicators of human well-being. So many interconnected factors must be present for improvement in these numbers to be realized. The reality is that human flourishing is getting better. Better does not mean utopia or the consummated Kingdom of God. Better means better. The challenge is to learn from what is going right and strengthen it.