This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 28, 2014.
People the world over can raise a toast to longer living.
That’s the big takeaway from the World Health Organization’s annual World Health Statistics report that says globally, on average, a child born in 2012 can expect to live six years longer than a child born in 1990.
Researchers, who released the report this month, say both high- and low-income countries have made strides that contribute to the global jump in longevity. In high-income countries, fewer people are dying of heart disease or stroke before age 60. In low-income countries, more children are living past their fifth birthdays.
Life expectancy in the United States is well above the global average, but we’re far from the top of the list. As The Chronicle has previously reported, there’s great disparity in Americans’ health, depending on income, education, ethnicity and geography.
Some of the world’s poorest nations have made the greatest gains. Liberia’s life expectancy increased by 20 years, from 42 in 1990 to 62 in 2012. Ethiopia and Maldives increased their life expectancies by 19 years compared with 1990. But there is a big gap in life expectancies between high- and low-income countries.
A boy born in a high-income country in 2012 can expect to live 16 years longer than one born in a low-income country, and for girls, the difference is 19 years.
Here’s a closer look at the numbers:
The average age a boy born in 2012 can expect to live, based on global averages from the World Health Organization.
The average age a girl born in 2012 can expect to live, according to WHO’s global averages.
The United States’ ranking on the list of countries with the highest life expectancies, although the U.S. spends more money on health care than any other nation. The average American boy born in 2012 will live to age 76, and the average girl will live to age 81.
The average life expectancy of a Japanese woman born in 2012, earning Japan the No. 1 spot on the women’s life expectancy list. Iceland took the top spot for men, with an average life expectancy of 81.2 years.
The average life expectancy for both men and women is less than 55 years in nine sub-Saharan African countries, putting them at the bottom of the world’s life expectancy list.