Life expectancy

Life Expectancy Up Around the World

Great strides made since the 1960s


At Human Progress, we have recently updated our global life expectancy data for the period between 1960 and 2015. And it is, by and large, a happy story. First, contrast the image of the map of the world in 1960 with that in 2015. The whole world has gotten significantly darker, signifying increasing lifespans—they increased from 42 years to 68 years—across the globe.

Even the world's poorest regions have experienced significant improvements in life expectancy. South Asia, for example, comprises Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives, and is home to 1.8 billion people. The region saw its life expectancy skyrocket by an extraordinary 26.5 years, or 63 percent. The world average, in contrast, rose "only" by 19.12 years, or 37 percent.

Sub-Saharan Africa, unfortunately, had suffered a serious blow in the 1990s, due to the largely unchecked spread of HIV/AIDS. Thankfully, the region appears to be on the mend, in large part because of the growing availability of cheap antiretroviral drugs. In 1960, a typical resident of sub-Saharan Africa had a life expectancy of 40.2 years. That rose to 59 years in 2015—an appreciation of 47 percent.

What about the United States? In recent months, we have heard much about the increase in death rates among American middle-aged whites. This is a disturbing development that bears watching, but the overall trend in the United States continues to be positive—even when compared with such star performers as the Scandinavian countries. While our life expectancy trails Scandinavia, American gains have been greater. Between 1960 and 2015, life expectancy rose by 12.71 percent, 11.32 percent and 11.02 percent in Sweden, Denmark and Norway respectively. In the United States, it rose by 13.45 percent.

Life expectancy is one of the best indicators of the overall state of humanity, for it reflects the interplay of rising incomes, material abundance and medical breakthroughs as well as declining violence. Happily, the data shows that contrary to the dire predictions of doomsayers, like Thomas Malthus, Rachel Carson, and Paul Ehrlich, humanity continues to flourish.

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  1. Hope I die before I get….


      1. Cheap shot, but funny

  2. And it was all in spite of global capitalism I tells ya!

    1. We see yet again what a golden age the Great Leap Forward was. Anti-capitalists of my acquaintance hate it when I bring that up but have yet to come up with a retort.

  3. ISIS losing

  4. Even the world’s poorest regions have experienced significant improvements in life expectancy.

    And in life quality?

    I mean, besides cell phones.

    1. Smartphones, ahem. To a poor third world villager with no previous exposure to modern communication technology, cell phones just mean the ability to have voice communications with friends and associates. Smartphones mean porn.

    2. If I had the choice between a short pretty miserable life with little modern technology, and a longer pretty miserable life with somewhat more modern technology, I would choose the second every time.

    3. And in life quality?


  5. Alt-text: “Knock-knock! Child Protective Services!”

  6. Well, now that’s too dark.

  7. Oh goody… now I can live longer with the boot of the state on my neck.

    1. Just don’t move and you’ll be OK.

  8. The naysayers and harbingers of doom need to keep their narrative active. How much better would we be though if government would have effed off decades ago? The life expectancy would be much higher I’m sure without government impeding and regulating everything from new drugs to competition in healthcare not to mention with lower taxes people would have more wealth and better access to higher quality healthcare.

  9. Given the fact that the USA spends so much more per capita on health care than ANY other developed country, it’s interesting that we have so little to show for it in terms of life expectancy.

    1. If we had a true free market it would be so much cheaper. But is there any nation on this planet that doesn’t have universal coverage?

    2. Its interesting how you dont know the US attempts to save far more premies than other countries which affects the per capita spending and pushes down life expectantcy rates as well. The US also spends an overwhelming percentage of its health care money in the final 5 years of life which in other countries is rationed.

      1. That is interesting, but I don’t know if that last part can explain the difference between the US and France, which is relatively expensive as far as socialized countries go but which has very high satisfaction and excellent longevity. There practice is highly privatized, basic coverage is socialized, but most people supplement with private plans. That last bit would seem to be particularly useful for extra end of life coverage, should you desire it.

        1. Satisfaction (with anything) depends on what you have had experience with to compare it to. If you have a low level of health care and you are unaware of a better alternative, you’d most likely be satisfied with it, especially if you never needed it.

  10. so sitting curled up in a wheel chair is life?-no thanks

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