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What are the reasons for increased life expectancy?


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2012-06-13 18:50:50
2012-06-13 18:50:50

Numerous factors, including better nutrition, better prenatal care, improved medicines, and advanced in technology that allow earlier detection and treatment of formerly fatal health problems.


AnswerThe primary reason for the vast increase in life expectancy in developed countries in the 20th century is universal clean drinking water and very high levels of public and person hygiene. These two improvements account for probably 80% of the life expectancy improvements. Overall, life expectancy has increased due to 6 major factors (from most to least importance):
  1. Clean drinking water
  2. Universal sanitation
  3. Significantly improved nutrition, particularly during infancy and childhood
  4. Vaccination against most common epidemic diseases
  5. Access to high-quality trauma (accident and emergency) care
  6. Improved drugs (particularly, antibiotics)
AnswerStatistically speaking, the single main reason behind the low average life expectancy in the developing world is due to the very high number of child deaths (high infant mortality rates). Once childhood is survived people in developing countries often live to old ages. Thus, average life expectancy can be greatly increased by significantly reducing the childhood (in particular, infant) mortality, without actually increasing the average age people live to as an adult. E.g. if 20% of a population dies in childhood (before 15), reducing that rate in half (to 10%) can result in a +5 year increase in averagelife expectancy, even if the average age of death for those OVER 15 doesn't change at all.

According to UNICEF, the majority of child deaths (70% in developing countries) are a result of these 5 main causes:

  • acute respiratory infections
  • diarrhea
  • measles
  • malaria
  • malnutrition

In the 20th century, the massive reduction in infant and childhood deaths due to Infectious Diseases is the primary driver of increased average life expectancy in the developing world. Universal vaccination is the main contributor to this drastic drop, with several enormous killer diseases now either wiped out or radically reduced:

  • Smallpox
  • Polio
  • Measles
  • Whooping Cough
  • Tuberculosis

In conjunction with vaccines, clean drinking water programs (which usually includes sanitation improvement) are responsible for the largest decrease in death at all ages. That is, improving access to clean drinking water will reduce death rates at all age brackets radically, since it significantly reduces congagious disease transmission.

In the developing world, vaccines, clean drinking water, and improved sanitation account for virtually ALL of the increase in life expectancy.

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