Global life expectancy Up by 6.2 years Since 1990: Lancet Study

Life Expectancy

A recent study published in The Lancet indicates that, on average, people worldwide are living more than six years longer in 2021 compared to 1990. This positive trend in life expectancy, which also includes an increase of nearly eight years in India over the past three decades, is attributed to reductions in mortality from major causes such as diarrhoea, lower respiratory infections, stroke, and heart disease.

However, the study highlights that the gains in life expectancy would have been significantly higher if not for the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, which disrupted progress globally. In South Asia, including India, Bhutan observed the largest increase in life expectancy (13.6 years), followed by Bangladesh (13.3), Nepal (10.4), and Pakistan (2.5 years).

Despite pandemic-related challenges, the super region of Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Oceania experienced the largest net gain in life expectancy between 1990 and 2021 (8.3 years), primarily due to reductions in deaths from chronic respiratory diseases, stroke, lower respiratory infections, and cancer. Effective management of the pandemic in this region helped maintain these gains. South Asia also saw a significant increase in life expectancy (7.8 years) during the same period, mainly due to declines in deaths from diarrhoeal diseases.

Dr Liane Ong, co-first author of the study, noted the nuanced global health landscape, highlighting both remarkable achievements in preventing deaths from certain diseases and the setbacks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic reshuffled the leading causes of death worldwide, with Covid-19 itself becoming the second-leading cause of death globally, displacing stroke. Additionally, “Other pandemic-related death” emerged as the fifth-leading cause of death in 2021.

The study, based on updated estimates from the Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) 2021, reveals that regions hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, such as Latin America and the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa, experienced the greatest loss in life expectancy in 2021. Despite documenting the significant loss of life due to Covid-19, the research also identifies factors contributing to improvements in life expectancy across different regions, particularly the sharp decline in deaths from enteric diseases, which contributed to a global increase in life expectancy by 1.1 years between 1990 and 2021.

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