20th May, 2016

Global life expectancy increased by five years between 2000 and 2015 to 71.4 years but major inequalities in how long we can be expected to live still exists both within and between countries, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization.

A report from the WHO shows that while newborns in 29 high income countries will have an average life expectancy of 80 years or more, newborns in 22 sub-Saharan African nations will have a life expectancy of less than 60 years.

The greatest gains were in WHO's African region where life expectancy increased 9.4 years to 60, driven by improvements in child survival, progress in tackling malaria and expanded access to antiretrovirals for the treatment of HIV.

Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO, said that while the world had made "great strides" in reducing needless suffering and premature deaths, the gains have been uneven. "Supporting countries to move towards universal health coverage based on strong primary health care is the best thing we can do to make sure no-one is left behind."

Japanese women have the highest life expectancy of 86.8 years and men in Switerzland have the highest at 81.3 years. But Sierra Leone holds the title for the lowest life expectancy for both men and women - 50.8 years for women and 49.3 for men.

Meanwhile the figures also show that the number of years of good health, a child born in 2015 can expect stands at 64.6 for females and 61.5 for males.

Other findings of the World Health Statistics 2016 report show that 5.9 million children still die before their fifth birthday each year, 800,000 people commit suicide and 1.25 million people die from road traffic accidents.

~ www.who.int

- DAVID ADAMS