Health, Life

Life Expectancy Increases By 6.2 Years Globally After Decline In Stroke, Diarrhea, And Respiratory Infection Deaths

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A recent study has shown that reductions in deaths from leading killers in the developing world, such as diarrhea, lower respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia, and stroke, have increased the global life expectancy by over six years since 1990.

Improved healthcare and better disease prevention have also contributed to longer lifespans until government-mandated lockdowns and business closures disrupted global supply chains, reversing this trend during the pandemic years.

Researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) analyzed causes of death worldwide over the last three decades and examined how global life expectancy changed during that time.

Their findings reveal that overall, life expectancy has increased by 6.2 years since 1990, with the most significant reductions in deaths occurring between 1990 and 2019 in Oceana, East Asia, and Eastern sub-Saharan Africa.

This decline was driven by a sharp decrease in deaths from enteric diseases, including diarrhea and typhoid, as well as significantly reduced mortality from lower respiratory infections.

Eastern sub-Saharan Africa experienced the largest increase in life expectancy, with a gain of 10.7 years.

The super-region of Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Oceania saw the second-largest net gain in life expectancy, with 8.3 years, largely due to decreases in deaths from stroke, lower respiratory infections, chronic respiratory diseases, and cancer.

The effective management of the pandemic in this area also helped maintain its life expectancy gains, explained the team.

South Asia was the super-region with the third-largest net gain, with 7.8 years attributed to a steep decline in deaths from diarrheal diseases.

Published in The Lancet, the study also highlights how COVID-19 altered the top five causes of death for the first time in 30 years, replacing stroke as the second-leading cause.

The super-regions of Latin America, the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa were hit the hardest by the pandemic, losing the most years of life expectancy in 2021.

Dr. Liane Ong, co-first author of the study and Lead Research Scientist at IHME, stated that the study can help scientists deepen their understanding of strategies to reduce deaths and offer more information on successful public health interventions.

The study’s findings also revealed which diseases have become more concentrated in certain locations, aiding in prevention and treatment efforts, according to co-first author Professor Mohsen Naghabi, the Director of Subnational Burden of Disease Estimation at IHME.

Naghabi said, “Our study shows that in 2021, deaths from enteric diseases were largely concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.”

“Likewise, 90 percent of deaths from malaria occurred in an area inhabited by just 12 percent of the world’s population: a stretch of land ranging from western sub-Saharan Africa through central Africa to Mozambique.”

“We already know how to save children from dying from enteric infections including diarrheal diseases, but now we need to focus on preventing and treating these diseases,” he added.