By Sola Ogundipe
AVERAGE life expectancy is increasing slowly in Nigeria but remains lower than many poorer countries in Africa, even as longevity continues to rise globally and average life expectancy is expected to hit 90 in some developed countries by 2030.
While countries in Asia and Europe are witnessing rapid increase in life expectancy, countries in Africa are witnessing slower growth, due to problems of economic, social and developmental significance.
According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, the life expectancy at birth and at age 65 is improving globally as a result of better adult and child health, as well as improved maternal care.
But while the average life expectancy for women at birth will most likely exceed 85 years, women in African countries like Nigeria may not fare as well as Asian and European counterparts, even as the gap in life expectancy between males and females shrink, according to The Lancet.
Higher life expectancy
The large international study reveals that more countries in the developed world will continue to witness higher life expectancy than in the developing world in the next 15-30 years.
Overall, average life expectancy will rise in many countries by 2030, breaking through 90 years in some places,but is expected to still be relatively low in Nigeria and policymakers may have to make more efforts to plan for the increase in longevity.
Global ranking: With a current life expectancy of 54.07 years, Nigeria is ranked 216 in the world, and 16th in Africa. Thirty seven years ago, average life expectancy in Nigeria was 44.74 years, ranking 58th in the world and 21st in Africa.
In 2020, the average life expectancy in Nigeria is expected to rise to 55.23 years (ranking 214 globally and 14th in Africa), while in 2030, it will be 59.20 years (ranking 212) and by 2050, hit 68.15 (ranking 209 globally and 9th in Africa).
According to the “Top 100+ rank countries of the world by statistics gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau. Rankings (2012 – 2050), for 2017, Nigeria is ranked No. 3 in the world.
With an estimated total population of 192,908,804 comprising 96,260,905 females and 96,647,900 males, Nigeria is the world’s 7th most populous country.
Nigeria’s population of persons aged 0-4 years (approx 31,329,912 ), is the world’s 3rd highest while the mortality rate of males aged 1-4 years (60.61 per 1,000 births) is the 5th highest.
In Nigeria, females have an average life expectancy of 57.49 years (ranking 209 in the world), while males are ranked at 224 with an average life expectancy of 50.85 years. Average death rate in Nigeria is 12.17 per 1,000 which is 24th highest in the world.
South Koreans to live longest: According to the study, South Koreans are likely to have the highest life expectancy in the world by 2030 and the United States one of the lowest among developed countries.
Overall, average life expectancy will rise in many countries by 2030, breaking through 90 years in some places, and policymakers need to make more efforts to plan for it.
“The fact that we will continue to live longer means we need to think about strengthening the health and social care systems to support an ageing population with multiple health needs,” said Majid Ezzati, the lead researcher and a professor at Imperial College London’s school of public health.
Study outcomes: Led by Imperial scientists in collaboration with W HO, the study found that among high-income countries, the United States is likely to have the lowest life expectancy in 2030, with men and women expecting to live 79.5 and 83.3 years respectively – similar to middle-income countries like Croatia and Mexico.
This was partly due to a lack of universal healthcare in the United States, and also due to factors such as relatively high child and maternal mortality rates, and high rates of homicides and obesity, the study said.
In Europe, French women and Swiss men were predicted to have the highest life expectancy, averaging 88.6 years for French women and nearly 84 years for Swiss men.
Upper limit for life expectancy
South Korea came out top of the predictions, with the researchers predicting a girl born in South Korea in 2030 should expect to live 90.8 years, while a boy could reach 84.1 years.
Upper limit: “Many people used to believe that 90 years is the upper limit for life expectancy, but this research suggests we will break the 90-year-barrier,” Prof Ezzati said.
“We repeatedly hear that improvements in human longevity are about to come to an end.. (but) I don’t believe we’re anywhere near the upper limit of life expectancy – if there even is one.”
South Korea’s much greater average life expectancy is expected to be due to factors including good childhood nutrition, low blood pressure, good access to healthcare, and newer medical knowledge and technologies.