If you want to live longer, where you live may play a factor. According to a new study, the average life expectancy for people living in developed countries will increase by 2030. But if you’re living in the United States, you may want to curb your enthusiasm. Americans will have the lowest life expectancy of rich countries, while South Koreans are predicted to live the longest.
Imperial College London and the World Health Organization looked at life spans in 35 industrialized countries, determining overall that the average life span for babies born in 2030 will not only increase, but that the life-expectancy gap between men and women will also start to close. Factors like smoking rates, medical advances and obesity patterns are all changing life expectancy.
In the past, men had shorter life spans than women due to unhealthier lifestyles. “They smoked and drank more and had more road traffic accidents and homicides,” Majid Ezzati, professor of global environmental health at Imperial College London, tells BBC News. “However, as lifestyles become more similar between men and women, so does their longevity.”
Out of all 35 countries, South Korea takes the lead with the highest expectancy rates for both men and women. South Korean women are expected to live past 90, and for men it’s north of 84. The country’s overall dominance in longevity is mostly due to the fact they have invested heavily in nutrition and universal health care. “And so far they are better at dealing with hypertension and have some of the lowest obesity rates in the world,” says Ezzati. Hypertension — or high blood pressure — can lead to heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States.
And despite the closing age gap, the study found that women were ahead of men in all countries. Behind South Korea, women in France, Japan, Spain and Switzerland were projected to live until 88. For South Korean men, life expectancy is expected to reach 84. Next were Australia, Switzerland, Canada and the Netherlands at nearly 84, reports AP News.
The U.S., however, already falls behind other developed countries and will continue this troubling trend. In fact, the study predicts that by 2030, the U.S. will have an average age of 83 for women (currently 81) and 80 for men (currently 76.3). This means that American women will fall to 27th out of 35 countries, from their current ranking of 25, and men will fall from 23rd to 26th, according to AP News.
While some genetic factors might explain the longevity in certain countries, social and environmental factors were probably more important, Ezzati says. “Places that perform well do so by investing in their health system and making sure it reaches everyone.”
The significance of these findings isn’t only to encourage countries to make changes in order to improve their citizens’ life expectancies, but to also motivate policymakers to prepare for the changing demographics.
“What South Korea has done goes completely against some Western countries … against the prosperity agenda,” Ezzati explains. Things like social care, planning and pensions in an aging population need to be addressed.
If you aren’t about to uproot your life and move to another country to live a little bit longer, check out a few changes you can make to tack on some extra time here.
What Do YOU Think?
Do the findings of this study surprise you? Why do you think the average life expectancy in the United States is so much less than other high-income countries? What changes do you think need to be made to ensure a longer life expectancy in each country?