Our life gets longer, but not healthier at the same pace // EIT Digital

Our life gets longer, but not healthier at the same pace

Life expectancy at birth, both sexes, 2013. Credit: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

The good news is that life expectancy at birth has increased significantly worldwide: from 65.3 back in 1990 to 71.5 in 2013 according to a study published by The Lancet.

Notice that a good portion of this “average” life span increase is the consequence of better life in many parts of the world, and it is not evenly distributed. Western Countries, Japan and South Korea (plus a few more) have life expectancy above 80 and this has not changed significantly in these last 25 years. As you can see in the map, Africa is still lagging behind with several areas having a life expectancy below 60 and a few below 50 (although it was much worse just 50 years ago). Plus a few countries have seen a decrease of life expectancy, because of AIDS and wars. AIDS in particular has ravaged many African countries and severely affected life expectation in large areas in India seeing an increase in infections by 347% in the period 1990-2013, although a turning point seems to have occurred in 2005 with a decrease of 24% of infection due to better prevention efforts.

In developed countries it is our rich life habits, like driving cars, that put a dent in life expectancy…

The bad news, however, is that the HALE, Healthy Life Expectancy, has not increased by the same amount: 5.4 years, from 56.9 to 62.3. This means that the gap between healthy life and departure from this world has increased and along with it health care cost.

Technology is playing a role in this increase of life expectancy, although most of it has its roots in economics: affordability of systems for purifying water and better sewage systems contribute more than drugs and surgery advances. Better agriculture is more helpful than HD television....

Most of innovation and money to generate innovation is spent to the benefit of developed countries and does not contribute in any significant way to increase life span. Actually, progress in medicine is prolonging a bit our life span in developed countries with a staggering cost: 40% of health care in the US is being spent in the last six month of life resulting in a life span increase that is measurable in weeks...

In this sense technology that help in proactive health care is probably a sound investment for developing countries. It is an area where EIT Digital is active, technology can help increase our awareness of living a healthy life, and can help in having fun as we keep ourselves in shape...

Author - Roberto Saracco

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