Japan Has Longest Healthy Life Expectancy - WHO

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Japan Has Longest Healthy Life Expectancy - WHO

By Patricia Reaney


LONDON (Reuters) - If you want to live to a healthy old age, head for Japan.

The Japanese have the healthiest life expectancy among 191 countries in the world, according to new figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Babies born in Japan in 1999 can expect to live to 74.5 years thanks in part to a traditional low fat diet, good healthcare and low rates of heart disease and lung cancer.

But while people in Japan, Australia, France, Sweden, Spain and Italy enjoy the longest, healthiest lives, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has drastically reduced the lifespans of people in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sierra Leone has the lowest life expectancy -- less than 26 years -- followed by Niger, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana.

The variation between the highest and the lowest is much greater than health experts had expected.

Life Expectancy

Instead of using death rates to calculate life expectancy, the WHO has developed a new indicator, Disability Adjusted Life Expectancy (DALE), to determine healthy life expectancy.

With DALE the years of ill-health are weighted according to severity and subtracted from the overall life expectancy to give years of healthy life.

One of the biggest surprises with DALE was the relatively low position of the United States -- number 24 on the list.

With an overall life expectancy of 70 years, the United States ranks below Greece (72.5 years), Switzerland (72.5) Monaco (72.4) and Andorra (72.3), which round out the top 10.

``The reason it is 24th is that there are groups that have been left out of the advances in health we have seen for most of the U.S. population for the last two or three decades,'' said Dr Christopher Murray, director of WHO's Global Program on Evidence for Health Policy.

The United States also has high levels of heart disease, obesity and cancers relating to tobacco use.

``These are levels that we haven't seen in centuries in the rich countries,'' added Dr Alan Lopez, co-ordinator of WHO's Epidemiology and Burden of Disease Team, told Reuters.

Women Live Longer

In most industrial countries women live longer than men because they are more health conscious, smoke less, have better diets and are more active.

In North African nations and the Middle East healthy life expectancy for men and women is similar, while in Russia women tend to live 10 years longer than men.

The gap is similar in the Ukraine and Belarus. Alcohol abuse and cardiovascular disease are thought to be among main causes.

In China, which has 20 percent of the world's population, both men (61.2 years) and women (62.3 years) have a similar life expectancy.

Elsewhere in Asia, Vietnam's life expectancy has improved to 58.2 years, Thailand's is 60.2 but Myanmar lags behind with just 52 years.

In a surprise finding, despite decades of a U.S. trade embargo Cuba has achieved the highest healthy life expectancy in Latin America at 68.4 years. It is not far behind the United States and just ahead of Uruguay, Argentina and Costa Rica.

``Across countries this study gives us some new insight into a long-running debate about whether, as people live longer, they are living healthier lives,'' said Murray.

In richer countries they are, but the poor of the world shoulder a double burden.

``They have shorter lifespans and those years that they do live they spend in states of ill health,'' Murray said.

-- Observer (lots@to.observe), June 04, 2000


"In most industrial countries women live longer than men because they are more health conscious, smoke less, have better diets and are more active."

Perhaps today's equal opportunity approach to military service will affect future statistics.

-- Lurker2 (lurker2@lots.to.lurk.for), June 04, 2000.

"Every man would have long life, but no man would be old."

Jonathan Swift

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), June 04, 2000.

No, like that old joke about giving up drinking, smoking, swearing, sex, spicy foods if you want to live forever, it only SEEMS like forever if you live in Japan...

Actually, if we combine suicide and homicide death rates, then compare with the U.S., we find Japan is a much more deadly place to live.

Of course, they have other benefits: Their police have a 98% conviction rate of arrestees. Yes, their interrogation methods do frequently leave the suspects permanently maimed, but they usually get their confessions...

Japanese society is a good one for ants and robots. Being human, I shall stay here, and stay armed.

-- Hamilton Felix (skagity2k@hotmail.com), June 04, 2000.

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