People are living longer, but longer lives don’t necessarily mean healthier lives, a recent study found.
Researchers analysed the major causes of disease and death in 188 countries between 1990 and 2013, and published their results in The Lancet.
They found that men and women were living an average of six years longer in 2013 than they were in 1990. But there was a catch: The number of healthy years spent without illness, what’s called healthy life expectancy, is increasing at a far slower pace.
That means people are leading longer lives — but spending more of that time with illness.
“As life expectancy increases, the gap between life expectancy and [healthy life expectancy] widens,” they wrote.
Scientists from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), which led the study, found that life expectancy for men and women increased from 65.3 years in 1990 to 71.5 years in 2013. Healthy life expectancy rose only from 56.9 years to 62.3 years.
That means that in 1990, someone with the average life expectancy (65.3) would spend an average of 8.4 years ill. In 2013, someone with the average life expectancy would live longer (to 71.5), but spend 9.2 years sick — almost another full year of living with illness.
According to the study, the past 13 years has seen improving treatments for communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, maternal, and children’s diseases. But people continue to be plagued by noncommunicable illnesses, and increasingly so.
In fact, the number of years spent ill from certain diseases including heart disease, stroke, respiratory infections, back and neck pain, and road injuries actually increased between 2005 to 2013.
The top country with the best healthy life expectancy was Japan at 71 years for men and 75.5 for women, while the country with the lowest healthy life expectancies was Lesotho, at 40 years for men and 44 years for women.
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