Rise in life expectancy since 1970
Published 13/12/2012 | 17:39
Average life expectancy around the world has increased by around a decade since 1970, new research has shown.
But while people are living longer, they are also more likely to be struggling with chronic disease and disability.
New estimates from the Global Burden of Disease Study show that, worldwide, men's average lifespan rose from 56.4 years in 1970 to 67.5 in 2010. That of women increased by more than 12 years from 61.2 to 73.3.
However, the gulf in life expectancy between the richest and poorest countries remains largely unchanged at around 40 years.
In 2010, Japanese women had the longest life expectancy at birth in the world, living to an average age of 85.9. For men, Iceland topped the longevity table. An Icelandic man born in 2010 could expect to reach his 80th birthday.
The biggest increase in lifespan since 1970 was seen in the Maldives, where men's life expectancy rose by 54.4% and women's by 57.6%. Average age at death for women in the Indian Ocean island nation went up from 51 to 80.4. Other rapid gains in life expectancy of more than 20 years occurred in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Iran and Peru.
However, it was a different story in southern sub-Saharan Africa, where men's life expectancy decreased by 1.3 years between 1970 and 2010, and women's by almost a year.
Haiti had the lowest life expectancy anywhere - just 32.5 years for men and 43.6 for women - but this was almost entirely due to the devastating earthquake that struck the country in January 2010.
The lifespan study was one of a series of Global Burden of Disease papers published in The Lancet medical journal. One striking finding was that while deaths among children under five declined by almost 60% since 1970, the number of people dying between the ages of 15 and 49 shot up by 44%.
Dr Haidong Wang, one of the authors from the University of Washington in Seattle, US, said: "Because more children are now surviving to adulthood compared to earlier decades, health policymakers globally will need to pay much more attention to preventing deaths in young adults.. in the coming years."