Life Expectancy - What Makes the Difference?

 

Babies born in the United States in 2005 are expected to live an average of 77.9 years, according to a 2007 study. That's an increase of more than 30 years since 1900, when Americans were expected to live just 47.3 years. The increase is big, but America is not at the top of the list for life expectancy. Actually, the United States ranks behind 41 other countries.

Residents of Okinawa, a Japanese island, get very old. In 2002 , 34 of 100,000 residents  were over 100 years old , the highest life expectancy of any area in the world. People so envy Okinawans' vitality that doctors made a popular diet based on theirs to help others try to live longer. While Okinawa may have  the highest population of centenarians -- people who are 100 years of age or older -- Japan is ranked second in life expectancy with an average of­ 82.

So who does first place go?   The residents of Andorra, a tiny mountain nation in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, are expected to live to the ripe old age of 83.5. But why are Andorrans expected to live so much longer than anyone else?

Andorra is home to around 72,000 people. It was founded in 1278, but was   ruled together by Spain and France -- until 1993, when it became a democracy. It was generally a poor country until after World War II, when Andorra became a tourist destination for skiing. Now, with a gross domestic product (GDP) -- the total of all of the goods and services produced in a year -- of $2.77 billion U.S., Andorra has a good economy.

But wealth alone doesn't give you  a lengthy life expectancy. The United States is one of the world's richest countries, with a GDP of $43,500 per person. Andorra has a per capita GDP of $38

 

Life Expectancy World Map

Life Expectancy Worldwide

 

Diseases

 

When a disease occurs in a population it has an effect on the average life expectancy. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that, in 2005, 38 percent of the adult population of Swaziland, the African nation with the lowest life expectancy in the world, was inflicted with AIDS or HIV. This isn’t the only reason for   Swaziland's low average life expectancy (38 years for men and 37 years for women), but it has a great impact. In Andorra on the other hand, AIDS does not exist.

People in Swaziland don’t have the same health care that Andorrans, in large part be­cause they are so poor. Swaziland has a per capita gross domestic product of $5,300, and 69 percent of its residents live below the poverty line.

 

 

Drinking water

Safe drinking water and sanitation are also problems in the African nation . Only 42 percent of Swaziland ’s  country  population has access to safe water. In Andorra 100 percent of Andorra's population has access to safe water and sanitation. One reason it's easier to give Andorrans better sanitation is the country's size: Fewer people need fewer sewers, and the country saves money on installation and maintenance costs.

 

Education

Education is another factor that contributes to a longer life expectancy. Only 81 percent of Swaziland's population of more than 1 million people can read and write, compared to 100 percent of Andorra's residents.

 

Life Expectancy - Growth in the Past 50 Years

 

 

Downloadable PDF Text- and Worksheets

 

Related Topics

 

Words

  • access = the right to have something
  • according to = as shown by something or someone
  • average =  usually, normally
  • centenarian =  someone who is a hundred years or older
  • contribute = add to
  • democracy = a system of government in a country in which people can elect its representatives
  • destination = a place where someone goes to
  • diet = the kind of food that a person eats every day
  • disease = illness         
  • economy = a system in which a country produces money and goods
  • effect = outcome
  • envy = to wish that you are like someone else
  • expect = people think that or believe that….
  • found = here: the year that the country first existed
  • goods = the things you produce and sell
  • gross domestic product = the total value of all goods and  services that are produced in a country every year
  • health care = the service that looks after the health of all the people in a country
  • impact = result, influence
  • increase = to go up
  • inflict = to suffer from
  • lengthy = very long
  • life expectancy = the number of years that a person is expected to live
  • maintenance costs = the money it takes to repair things and keep them in order
  • occur = happen
  • per capita = per person
  • poverty line = when people have too little money to exist
  • rank = to have a position in a list
  • resident = a person who lives in a place
  • ripe = here: to be old
  • rule = to have the power to control a country
  • sanitation = when you remove waste and make dirty water cleaner, hygiene 
  • service = the work that someone does for a person or organization
  • sewer = a pipe or passage under ground that carries away dirty water
  • vitality = to have great energy and strength