Guruló Hordó

Live long and prosper…

2012.09.19. 08:48 Zsoldos István (Zsopi)

...and it's easier to do if you are a woman in a crisis-hit Mediterranean country.

OK, it’s quiz time. Which of the following statements are true?

  • Life expectancy in Mexico is higher than in Washington DC.
  • Life expectancy in Shanghai is higher than in Sweden.
  • Life expectancy in Hungary is lower than in Beijing, but about the same as in Mississippi state.
  • Even the worst Eurozone country has a higher life expectancy than the US average.
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina has a higher life expectancy than Denmark.
  • Georgia, the country, has the same life expectancy as Georgia, the US state. 

If we believe our sources (see at the end), all of these statement are true, which is amazing. See the full ranking below for more interesting tidbits for pub table conversations. Of course some caveats are in order – statistics can be unreliable or manipulated in some countries.

photo: Judit Babidorics 

Life expectancy is the statistical average age when people in a certain group (e.g. country or region) die. The current global average is around 67 years. Life expectancy also changes over time. Life expectancy varies a great deal even within countries, and at first sight it is not obvious why. Wealth has something to do with it: within one country typically (but not always) people in the richer regions tend to live longer – Shanghai is top within China both in terms of per capita income and life expectancy. It certainly helps to be a rich city-state – women in Monaco can expect to live around 94 years. Also, the shortest lived end of the list below is mainly comprised of poor countries, predominantly in Africa.

elethossz_en.png

Source: IMF, CIA

But once you get above a certain income level, and compare across countries, the connection becomes extremely loose (see chart above) – that is the main source of the surprising statements above. The US is an interesting example: it is the richest large country, yet on average, life expectancy is not especially high. That is how Portugal, with the lowest life expectancy among the Eurozone countries, and with GDP per capita of about half of the US level, still manages to outlive the average American. The US is the 51st country in terms of life expectancy (78.4 years) among the countries and territories listed by the CIA. Is it the lack of universal health care? Or large income differences? Or unhealthy diet/obesity? It is difficult to be certain, as many of the effects are interconnected. As a country gets richer, usually life expectancy increases, but so do healthcare spending; on the other hand, life may become more stressful. So the way of causality is extremely hard to disentangle. And to complicate the matters, because of the generally increasing life expectancies, the current life expectancy probably tells little about what the expected lifespan of a newborn today might be – don’t forget that life expectancy calculations give you a life expectancy of a newborn today assuming that mortality rates remain unchanged.

It also helps if you live in relatively warm (or is it sunny?) regions/countries. Within the US, Hawaii is first in terms of life expectancy, despite not being among the richest states, and Puerto Rico does better than average, despite being the poorest.

Photo: Judit Babidorics

On the following map of regional life expectancy within the EU, it is clear that there is a North-South divide in favor of the South (apart from the more intuitive East-West one). The dividing line can even run within countries – look at France. Bosnia is not shown, but to some extent it fits this “Southern” pattern, as does relatively long-lived but poor Albanians (living longer than Czechs for example).

At the other extreme, in some parts of Siberia and also, more surprisingly, deprived parts of Scotland , male life expectancy is around 50 years, comparable with very poor, AIDS ravaged African countries. Again, it is difficult to disentangle the effect of smoking and alcoholism from that of climate, and they are possibly related. Within Russia, life expectancy is highest in poor but southern Caucasian regions like Ingushetia and Dagestan. Of course it helps that these tend to be Muslim and tend to drink less vodka, so again it is not purely climate we are talking about… 


Again, a lot of theories have been proposed to explain why people in warmer climes live longer. These range from better availability of fresh vegetables to olive oil use to red wine drinking, or just the more relaxed lifestyle and more outdoor activity and more vitamin D metabolism in sunnier places. It is probably a mix of things, but the jury is still out…

So what is the best tip based on the above? Try to become a rich woman, and move to Hawaii. Or to the Mediterranean… but wait, the Southern EU countries are going to be in economic trouble, surely their life expectancy will suffer? Don’t bet on it. Life expectancy went up by a whopping 6 years during the Great Depression in the US. Why? There are also many alternative reasons put forward: in a recession, people have less money to spend on alcohol and cigarettes, a slowdown brings down pollution, less work means less stress (of course for those who do not lose their jobs), just to name a few. The mysteries of life expectancy are plenty…

 

Life expectancy in years for countries and sub-regions in Brazil, China, India and the US

Monaco

89.73

Macau

84.41

San Marino

83.01

Shanghai

82.51

Andorra

82.43

Japan

82.25

Guernsey

82.16

Singapore

82.14

Hong Kong

82.04

Australia

81.81

Italy

81.77

Hawaii

81.5

France (metropolitan)

81.5

Jersey

81.38

Canada

81.38

Spain

81.17

Switzerland

81.07

Sweden

81.07

Israel

80.96

Minnesota

80.9

Iceland

80.9

Anguilla

80.87

Bermuda

80.71

Cayman Islands

80.68

Isle of Man

80.64

New Zealand

80.59

California

80.4

New York

80.4

Liechtenstein

80.31

Connecticut

80.2

Norway

80.2

Ireland

80.19

Massachusetts

80.1

North Dakota

80.1

Utah

80.1

Germany

80.07

United Kingdom

80.05

Jordan

80.05

Greece

79.92

Colorado

79.9

Arizona

79.9

South Dakota

79.9

Saint Pierre and Miquelon

79.87

Austria

79.78

Faroe Islands

79.72

Malta

79.72

New Hampshire

79.7

Vermont

79.7

Florida

79.7

Iowa

79.7

New Jersey

79.7

Washington

79.7

Netherlands

79.68

Luxembourg

79.61

Belgium

79.51

U.S. Virgin Islands

79.33

Wisconsin

79.3

Rhode Island

79.3

Finland

79.27

Idaho

79.2

Nebraska

79.2

Taiwan

79.18

Turks and Caicos Islands

79.11

South Korea

79.05

Oregon

79

Wallis and Futuna

78.98

Puerto Rico ( US)

78.92

European Union

78.82

Bosnia and Herzegovina

78.81

Illinois

78.8

Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

78.76

Maine

78.7

Gibraltar

78.68

Denmark

78.63

Portugal

78.54

Virginia

78.5

Kansas

78.4

Montana

78.4

United States

78.37

Republic of China (Taiwan)

78.32

Delaware

78.3

Alaska

78.3

Texas

78.3

New Mexico

78.2

Pennsylvania

78.2

Bahrain

78.15

Maryland

78.1

Michigan

77.9

Cyprus

77.82

Panama

77.79

Costa Rica

77.72

Indiana

77.7

Chile

77.7

Cuba

77.7

Libya

77.65

British Virgin Islands

77.63

Wyoming

77.6

Nevada

77.6

Ohio

77.5

Albania

77.41

Missouri

77.4

Dominican Republic

77.31

Slovenia

77.3

North Carolina

77.2

Czech Republic

77.19

Georgia

77.12

Georgia

77.1

French Polynesia ( France)

77.1

Kuwait

77.09

Northern Mariana Islands (US)

77.08

Argentina

76.95

Saint Lucia

76.84

New Caledonia (France)

76.75

Netherlands Antilles (Netherlands)

76.65

South Carolina

76.6

United Arab Emirates

76.51

 Mexico

76.47

 Uruguay

76.35

 Saudi Arabia

76.3

 Poland

76.28

Tennessee

76.2

Kentucky

76.2

Arkansas

76.1

Beijing

76.1

Distrito Federal

75.8

Santa Catarina

75.8

 Tunisia

75.78

 Paraguay

75.77

 Brunei

75.74

District of Columbia

75.6

Oklahoma

75.6

 Dominica

75.55

Rio Grande do Sul

75.5

Louisiana

75.4

Slovakia

75.4

 Croatia

75.35

 Qatar

75.35

 Ecuador

75.3

 Aruba ( Netherlands)

75.28

Alabama

75.2

West Virginia

75.2

 Sri Lanka

75.14

Minas Gerais

75.1

Tianjin

74.91

 Lithuania

74.9

Mississippi

74.8

São Paulo

74.8

Hungary

74.79

Antigua and Barbuda

74.76

Zhejiang

74.7

Paraná

74.7

 Macedonia

74.68

 West Bank

74.54

Mato Grosso do Sul

74.3

Espírito Santo

74.3

 Cook Islands

74.22

 Oman

74.16

 Algeria

74.02

 Mauritius

74

Kerala

74

 Maldives

73.97

 Barbados

73.94

Shandong

73.92

Jiangsu

73.91

 Serbia

73.9

Goiás

73.9

 Suriname

73.73

 American Samoa ( US)

73.72

Mato Grosso

73.7

Rio de Janeiro

73.7

 Solomon Islands

73.69

 Lebanon

73.66

 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

73.65

 Venezuela

73.61

 Jamaica

73.53

 People's Republic of China

73.47

 Gaza Strip

73.42

Liaoning

73.34

 Malaysia

73.29

Guangdong

73.27

 Saint Kitts and Nevis

73.2

 Thailand

73.1

Jilin

73.1

 Bulgaria

73.09

 Seychelles

73.02

Hainan

72.92

 Estonia

72.82

 Colombia

72.81

 Montserrat

72.76

 Armenia

72.68

Bahia

72.6

Fujian

72.55

Hebei

72.54

Pará

72.5

Romania

72.45

Heilongjiang

72.37

 El Salvador

72.33

Amazonas

72.2

 Latvia

72.15

 Egypt

72.12

Acre

72

 Brazil

71.99

 Turkey

71.96

 Uzbekistan

71.96

Tocantins

71.9

 Samoa

71.86

Anhui

71.85

 Morocco

71.8

Rondônia

71.8

Chongqing

71.73

Shanxi

71.65

 Cape Verde

71.61

Sergipe

71.6

 Vietnam

71.58

Henan

71.54

 Nicaragua

71.5

Guangxi

71.29

 Palau

71.22

Sichuan

71.2

 Marshall Islands

71.19

 Syria

71.19

 Iran

71.14

Rio Grande do Norte

71.1

 Philippines

71.09

Hubei

71.08

Amapá

71

Ceará

71

 Federated States of Micronesia

70.94

 Trinidad and Tobago

70.86

 Moldova

70.8

 Indonesia

70.76

 Peru

70.74

 Fiji

70.73

 Tonga

70.73

Hunan

70.66

 Belarus

70.63

Roraima

70.6

Russia

70.3

 Guatemala

70.29

Ningxia

70.17

 Greenland ( Denmark)

70.07

Shaanxi

70.07

Iraq

69.94

India

69.89

Inner Mongolia

69.87

Paraíba

69.8

Piauí

69.7

 Kyrgyzstan

69.43

 Honduras

69.4

Punjab

69.4

 Tuvalu

69.29

Pernambuco

69.1

Jiangxi

68.95

Maranhão

68.4

 São Tomé and Príncipe

68.32

 Ukraine

68.25

 Belize

68.2

 Kazakhstan

67.87

 Turkmenistan

67.87

 Mongolia

67.65

Alagoas

67.6

Gansu

67.47

Xinjiang

67.41

 East Timor

67.27

Maharashtra

67.2

Himachal Pradesh

67

 Bolivia

66.89

 Guyana

66.68

 Azerbaijan

66.66

 World

66.57

 Papua New Guinea

66.34

Haryana

66.2

Tamil Nadu

66.2

 Bhutan

66.13

Qinghai

66.03

Guizhou

65.96

 Grenada

65.95

 The Bahamas

65.78

Yunnan

65.49

 Nepal

65.46

 Tajikistan

65.33

Karnataka

65.3

West Bengal

64.9

 Pakistan

64.49

Andhra Pradesh

64.4

Tibet

64.37

 Nauru

64.2

Gujarat

64.1

 Vanuatu

63.98

 North Korea

63.81

India

63.5

 Comoros

63.47

 Burma

63.39

 Yemen

63.27

 Kiribati

63.22

 Mayotte ( France)

62.91

 Madagascar

62.89

 Sudan

62.57

 Cambodia

62.1

Rajasthan

62

 Botswana

61.85

 Eritrea

61.78

 Equatorial Guinea

61.61

Bihar

61.6

 Haiti

60.78

 Mauritania

60.37

 Bangladesh

60.25

Uttar Pradesh

60

Uttarakhand

60

 Ghana

59.85

Orissa

59.6

 Benin

59

 Senegal

59

Assam

58.9

 Togo

58.69

Chhatisgarh

58

Jharkhand

58

Madhya Pradesh

58

 Kenya

57.86

 Guinea

57.09

 Laos

56.68

 Côte d'Ivoire

55.45

 Ethiopia

55.41

 The Gambia

55.35

 Democratic Republic of the Congo

54.36

 Western Sahara

54.32

 Republic of the Congo

54.15

 Cameroon

53.69

 Gabon

53.11

 Burkina Faso

52.95

 Uganda

52.72

 Niger

52.6

 Burundi

52.09

 Tanzania

52.01

 Namibia

51.24

 Rwanda

50.52

 Mali

50.35

 Somalia

49.63

 South Africa

48.98

 Guinea-Bissau

47.9

 Chad

47.7

 Nigeria

46.94

 Zimbabwe

45.77

 Afghanistan

45.02

 Central African Republic

44.47

 Malawi

43.82

 Djibouti

43.37

 Liberia

41.84

 Sierra Leone

41.24

 Mozambique

41.18

 Lesotho

40.38

 Zambia

38.63

 Angola

38.2

 Swaziland

31.88


Sources: For countries: CIA World Factbook (2011 Est.)

For India: UNDP Human Development Report for India

For China, National Bureau of Statistics (via Wikipedia), http://shanghaiist.com/2012/02/20/shanghais_life_expectancy.php  for latest Shanghai data

Data for Russian regions is also available here (http://www.undp.ru/2EF572DF-FD67-4766-A208-81DC58560B26/FinalDownload/DownloadId-E7CE38434968B306208F4A8DE24AFB55/2EF572DF-FD67-4766-A208-81DC58560B26/nhdr2010/National_Human_Development_Report_in_the_RF_2010_ENG.pdf), but it would have made the already long list even longer

Brazil is a 2007 estimate, China is a 2000 estimate (for Shanghai 2011), India is 2007, US is 2010-11

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