Life expectancy has grown in all but one country over roughly the past five decades, according to the latest in The Lancet‘s Global Burden of Disease report series.
The United States had a life expectancy of 78.9 years on average in 2016, good for the 58th highest life expectancy in the world. That’s the country’s lowest rank since the study began in 1970. And while the life expectancy did increase slightly from 2010 to 2016, the change was an anemic 0.1% — falling far short of the average 1% increase that had been recorded every five years previously.
The chart below shows how life expectancy has changed for each area reported in the Lancet study. Choose a country from the drop-down to highlight how that area has fared, or choose “All” to see every area included.
The United States’ fall is perhaps indicative of a broader trend, as the gaps between the world’s haves and the have-nots are generally shrinking. Absolute differences in death rates between countries have converged, meeting one of the aims of The Lancet‘s Commission on Investing in Health. Some countries in particular stand out: Ethiopia, the Maldives, Nepal, Niger, Portugal and Peru have seen large increases in life expectancy beyond what would be expected based on the country’s level of development, the study’s authors wrote.
Of course, higher life expectancies have their downsides. People are living more of their years with ill health, especially in poor countries without access to quality medical care. Lower back pain, migraines, hearing loss, anemia, and depressive disorders were the biggest contributors to years lived with disability. Some of those conditions were geographically inescapable: Major depressive episodes were one of the top causes of ill health in all but four countries worldwide.
Noncommunicable disease was behind nearly three out of every four deaths globally in 2016. Heart disease led the way in all wealthier regions. In low income countries, lower respiratory infections were the biggest killer.
“Our findings indicate people are living longer and, over the past decade, we identified substantial progress in driving down death rates from some of the world’s most pernicious diseases and conditions, such as under age-5 mortality and malaria,” said Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which coordinated the study. “Yet, despite this progress, we are facing a triad of trouble holding back many nations and communities – obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders.”
The chart below shows the most common causes of death in 2016. A box’s size represents the proportion of deaths attributed to that cause. The color, meanwhile, represents that cause’s percentage change over the previous decade. Dark blue means a cause has increased dramatically, dark orange means it’s decreased dramatically, and other changes fall along that spectrum.