A new study out of London, just published in The Lancet, projects that women in South Korea will have the highest life expectancy at birth by the year 2030--possibly reaching 90 years. Why is this the case? BBC News carries the story:
"South Korea has gotten a lot of things right," Prof Majid Ezzati told the BBC News website. "They seem to have been a more equal place and things that have benefited people - education, nutrition - have benefited most people. "And so far, they are better at dealing with hypertension and have some of the lowest obesity rates in the world."When I first saw the headline on the BBC website about projected increases in life expectancy, I admit to having been a bit skeptical--until I saw that Professor Majid Ezzati at Imperial College London had organized the research. I have known him for many years and he is very good. Among the many other important things he's done, he's been closely involved in the Global Burden of Disease project headed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The paper in The Lancet is actually a great case study for doing cutting edge demographic research on health and mortality. They applied Bayesian modeling to current age-specific mortality rates to calculate life tables with given probabilities of the results being as projected.
Given the current controversy in the U.S. over the Affordable Care Act, it is very sad--even if not surprising--that the life table projections suggest that the U.S. will move to last among the rich countries in terms of life expectancy for males and females.
"They are almost opposite of South Korea," added Prof Ezzati. "[Society in the US is] very unequal to an extent the whole national performance is affected - it is the only country without universal health insurance. "And it is the first country that has stopped growing taller, which shows something about early life nutrition." The US will be overtaken by Chile, where women born in 2030 will expect to live for 87 years and men for 81.The lessening of the life expectancy gap between men and women is almost entirely due to the lower rates of smoking among younger men. Women had never smoked as much as men, and as smoking has become less common among men, they are enjoying longer lives. Indonesia--last bastion of the Marlboro man--needs to pay closer attention to these trends.