Global Burden of Disease Study 2010
The latest issue of The Lancet has a special on the global picture of disease in 2010. A sample from some of the findings:
Globally, 50% of boys born in 1970 could expect to survive to 65 years compared with 70 years for girls, whereas 50% of boys born in 2010 would be expected to survive to 73 years compared with 79 years for girls... Global life expectancy increased about 3–4 years per decade for both sexes in every decade apart from the 1990s, when smaller improvements were recorded (1∙4 years for male life expectancy and 1∙6 years for female life expectancy), largely because of the effect of HIV/AIDS in some regions and deaths related to alcohol in eastern Europe and central Asia,5–15 coupled with a slowdown in survival gains in childhood.
....Global life expectancy has increased substantially in the past 40 years for men and women, despite major global and regional health crises. This increase has been
driven by large declines (≥60%) in child mortality, declines of 40% or more in adult female mortality, and declines of 15–35% for adult male mortality, dependent on age group. Global population growth from 3∙7 billion in 1970 to 6∙9 billion in 2010,34 combined with a rise in the average age of the population, has led to an increase in the number of deaths to 52∙8 million (51∙6–54∙1 million) in 2010 from 43∙3 million (42∙2–44∙6 million) in 1970. In this period, the global crude death rate declined from 11∙7 per 1000 individuals to 7∙7 per 1000 individuals, because of the large (86∙7%) relative increase in world population.34 These trends in global demography mask striking heterogeneity in trends by age and sex and across countries and regions. Under-5 deaths decreased by more than half from 16∙4 million (16∙1–16∙7 million) in 1970, to 11∙6 million (11∙5–11∙7 million) in 1990, to 6∙8 million
(6∙6–7∙1 million) in 2010. Substantial progress in the past 40 years in postponing mortality in populations in all regions has resulted in large increases in numbers of
deaths in the oldest age groups. Deaths at ages older than 80 years increased from 3∙8 (3∙8–3∙9) million in 1970 to 12∙1 (12∙0–12∙3) million in 2010 (an increase of 215·6%).
Life expectancy for males in Canada in 1970, the year I was born, was 69 years. That is below the life expectancy of 73 years for males born today in China, and comparable to the life expectancy of males born today in Latvia, El Salvador, Mauritius and females born in Mongolia, Sudan, and Guyana.
Up-to-date data like that found in table 2 of this article is imperative for helping us understand how the life prospects of humanity have dramatically changed for the better over the past 4 decades. It's an incredible story of the improvement of human health, of persisting challenges (like HIV in Africa) and new health challenges (especially the rise in the chronic diseases of late life).