It is said that a desire for a long life is a universal component of human nature. Nonetheless, some parts of the world see this desire fulfilled far more often than others. In fact, only a handful of countries have life expectancies greater than 80 years. At the helm of the countries the longest life expectancy is Hong Kong, with an average life expectancy of 83.8 years, followed closely by Japan, Iceland, Switzerland and Spain, who all have average life expectancies of greater than 80 years. The U.S. trails them all considerably at position 34 on our list, with and average life expectancy of 78.8 years. It may seem unfair that residents of certain countries have more realistic odds of long life than others, but there are a number of good reasons why this incongruity has come to be.
Measuring Life Expectancy
Life expectancy is determined by computing the average of the ages at which people die in a given country. As such, infant mortality rate is a key determinant factor. As a matter of fact, all the countries which have the highest life expectancy have very low infant mortality rates. As of 2014, Iceland, Luxembourg and Hong Kong had the lowest mortality rates with each of them having less than two deaths of children aged between zero to twelve months in every 1000 births. U.S. on the other hand was ranked in the 42nd position with averagely 5.9 infant deaths per 1000 births. This is a big challenge to her life expectancy.
Access to Health Care
It goes without saying that early death, including infant mortality, is usually caused by health problems. That is why when we see countries with low life expectancies and high infant mortality rates, we often see an accompanying lack of accessibility to good health care and a generally underdeveloped medical infrastructure. The combination of factors that contribute to the general health standards of a country include not only the availability and quality of its healthcare facilities, but quality of food and pollution regulations as well. Iceland, Japan and Hong Kong were rated as having health departments among the seven best in 2014, so it is little wonder they have topped the list of countries with the longest life expectancies.
The Safety Factor
Another factor that contributes positively to some countries' long life expectancies are their high levels of security. For instance, Iceland, Singapore, Hong Kong and Luxembourg all rank among the top ten most secure countries, each scoring greater than six on a scale from zero to seven. Obviously insecurity issues such as terrorism, organized crimes, and other violent criminal activities serve to lower the life expectancy of those countries where they are prevalent.
A High Quality of Life Correlates to Longer Lives
It must be noted that the countries that have the highest life expectancy are generally the most developed countries as well. Factors lending to a high quality of life in such countries range from a modern economy, pollution control and well-developed infrastructure to quality education systems and high penetration rates of internet usage. A benefit of education in particular is that it generates awareness among citizens of the need to promote and maintain good health. Additionally, the residents of such countries not only understand the importance of nutritious food, but are more likely to be able to afford it as well. Countries that are less developed in these relation to these aspects, such as many Asian and Sub-Saharan African countries, struggle to achieve similarly long life expectancies.
The bottom line is that it isn't by sheer chance that countries among our list have a relatively long life expectancy in relation to other countries. Instead, it is because of the many characteristics that they share in common that citizens of these countries can achieve long lives, and the further development of such characteristics can allow developing nations to raise their own life expectancies as well.
Average Life Expectancy By Country
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