Life expectancy in OECD, Japan, Spain, Switzerland highest, Latvia and Mexico bottom

The latest OCED “Health at a Glance” report 2017 has found that countries that have a higher national income that spend more on health have longer life expectancies compared to those who do not. However many other factors also contribute to life expectancy, the report finds.

The report shows a direct correlation that a 10 percent increase in health expenditure by the countries per capita can lend 3.5 months extra to the average life expectancy. Similarly a 10 percent development in the lifestyle choices towards a healthier lifestyle can lend 2.6 months to the life expectancy. Income too has a role to play with a 10 percent rise in income per capita contributing to 2.2 months of life expectancy. Same with education - 10% increase in primary education prevalence brings in 3.2 months of life expectancy.

Image Credit: Nito / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Nito / Shutterstock

In the OECD countries, the life expectancy at birth was analyzed for the current year. An average of 80.6 years was noted in all the OECD countries in 2015. There has been a steady rise of life expectancy over the last few decades. A short temporary fall was noted in some countries between 2014 and 2015 but this did not last. Among OECD countries, the largest gainers in life expectancy were Turkey, Korea and Chile which have seen rise of 24, 20 and 17 years respectively since 1970. The encouraging numbers in life expectancy have been attributed to several factors including better education, better income, healthier lifestyles, and progress in health care. The economic growth of these countries is also significant over these past years.

Some OECD countries show a below average life expectancy including India, Indonesia, Brazil and China. These countries too have made progress in life expectancy but still have a few years to go before they can meet the OECD average. Progress is slower in certain countries such as South Africa, Lithuania and the Russian Federation. It has been attributed to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and rise of risky health behaviors among men etc.

The start performers with life expectancy beyond 80 years include Japan, Spain and Switzerland. There are 25 OECD countries where average life expectancy is above 80 years. United States, Chile and some central and eastern European countries have an average life expectancy of 75 to 80 years.

Latvia and Mexico had the lowest life expectancy in 2015 around 75 years. Mexico also has been a slow gainer. High obesity and poor nutrition remains a cause for these numbers. There is a slo a huge rise in diabetes, heart disease, road traffic accidents and homicides along with barriers to good quality health care that brings down life expectancy.

Higher national incomes and GDP per capita raises life expectancy at birth. But this is always not a direct correlation. Japan and Spain have higher life expectancies compared to United States and the Russian Federation despite having similar GDP per capita. Health expenditure however is predictive of life expectancy. But here too Japan, Spain and Korea have longer life expectancies at birth compared to United States and the Russian Federation even when their respective health expenditures might be similar.

Gender and other factors need to be accounted for. In 2015 for example life expectancy at birth for women was 83.1 years and 77.9 years for men in the OECD countries. The gender gap was highest in the mid-1980s. Now the gap is narrower the report finds. Narrowing indicates risky behaviors being adopted by women worldwide including smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

The life expectancy for women is over 85 years in Japan, Spain, France, Korea and Switzerland and less than 80 years in Hungary, Latvia and Mexico. Among men the range is less than 75 years in Latvia, Mexico, Hungary, the Slovak Republic, Estonia and Poland and over 80 years in Iceland, Japan, Switzerland, Norway, Australia, Sweden, Italy, Israel and Spain. The gender gap is narrow in Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Ireland and Denmark with less than four years gap. The gap is almost 7-10 years in Latvia, Estonia, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Hungary.

A higher education level has been seen to raise life expectancy. People who are more educated tend to choose healthier eating and lifestyle habits. In 25 OECD countries, those with highest education lived at least 6 years more than those with lower education levels. This gap is more in Slovak Republic, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, Latvia and the Czech Republic between higher and lower educated groups. The difference is less marked in some countries such as Turkey, Sweden and Canada.

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