The headline: Global life expectancy has risen from 52.6 years (1960) to 72.0 years (2016) according to World Bank data1, an increase of 19.4 years over a 57-year period. However, the improvement has not be shared equally (see chart). For example, Ukraine’s life expectancy only increased 3.2 years (68.3 to 72.5 years) while China’s skyrocketed 32.6 years (43.7 to 76.3 years). The chart also illustrates nonlinear changes including declines for Kenya/South Africa/Lesotho (1990s to 2000s), Iraq (early 1980s), and Vietnam (early 1970s); wars are generally not good for life expectancy! Nigerians (53.4 years) live, on average, more than 30 years less than the Japanese (84.0 years). In 1960, Afghani’s had a life expectancy of only 32.3 years. In 1960, Afghani’s had a life expectancy of only 32.3 years. China’s life expectancy increased from 43.7 (1960) to 63.9 (1975), a 20+ year increase in only 15 years!
The chart: Each line is life expectancy for a separate country from 1960 to 2016. Each country is illustrative of typical changes across continents. Each line is colored depending on the increase in life expectancy between 1960 and 2016. Red (e.g., Ukraine, Denmark, and the USA) indicates countries with the lowest number of increase in terms of year. Yellow (e.g., Vietnam, Japan, and Spain) indicates a below-average increase and green (Brazil, Iraq, and India) an above-average increase. Blue (e.g., China, Afghanistan, and South Korea) indicates countries with a strong increase in life expectancy.