State media in China boasted that their healthy life expectancy is now better than in the US -- and they're right

Getty ImagesChinese retirees in Beijing in 2014.
  • China was celebrating this week after new figures put its “healthy life expectancy” ahead of the US.
  • Chinese people can now expect 68.7 years of healthy life, compared to 68.5 for Americans.
  • The US figure peaked in 2010, while China’s keeps on rising, and this year pulled ahead.

State media in China were celebrating a victory over the US this week, as official health data shows that people there now on average enjoy a longer healthy lifespan than Americans.

The celebration included this tweet by the People’s Daily state-controlled news outlet, which said: “Chinese people can look forward to a longer healthy life than Americans for the first time since records began.”

And they’re right, at least according to information compiled by the World Health Organisation, a branch of the UN which publishes comparative data on health across the world.

Its latest figures, which are from 2016 but were only uploaded last month, show that the US healthy life expectancy is 68.5, and in China is 68.7.

That means Chinese people get 73 days, or around 10 weeks, of extra healthy life.

The 2015 results are the opposite way round, with the US on 68.6 and China on 68.4.

Healthy Life Expectancy is more or less what it sounds – the number of years of good health a person can expect to enjoy.

It is different from absolute life expectancy, which does not capture the difference between long, healthy lives and lives which end in protracted illness.

Here are how the two stack up over all the years for which the WHO publishes data:

US China 2000 67.4 64.8 2005 67.9 66.7 2010 68.7 67.6 2015 68.6 68.4 2016 68.5 68.7Both China and the US are behind Canada and most of western Europe, which have results of 70 or above. Singapore is currently top with 76.2

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