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Lancet Study: Global Life Expectancy Surges by 6.2 Years in Last 30 Years

An increase in global life expectancy by 6.2 years was documented in a recent study published in The Lancet spanning from 1990 to 2021. This advancement can be attributed to a decline in fatalities from enteric infections, lower respiratory infections, ischemic heart disease, and strokes on a worldwide scale. However, the prevalence of COVID-19 had a dampening effect in numerous countries.

Enteric illnesses, which encompass bacterial, parasitical, and viral diseases transmitted through food and water, notably typhoid and diarrhea, saw the most significant reduction in mortality rates. This decrease in deaths from such diseases contributed to a rise in life expectancy by 1-1 years during the period of 1990-2021, with a more pronounced increase observed in the years between 1990 and 2000 compared to subsequent decades.

The substantial decrease in mortality from enteric infectious diseases led to a significant increase of 3.1 years in life expectancy in South Asia.

Mohsen Naghavi, the Director of Subnational Burden of Disease Estimation at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), emphasized the remarkable progress in combatting enteric infections, particularly diarrheal diseases, stating the need to focus on prevention, treatment, strengthening immunization programs, and developing new vaccines against pathogens like E. coli, norovirus, and Shigella.

Furthermore, the study highlighted that the second most influential factor in the rise of life expectancy was the reduction in deaths from lower respiratory infections, contributing to a gain of 0.9 years from 1990 to 2021. Similarly, a decline in chronic respiratory diseases added 0.5 years to life expectancy, with notable improvements in mortality rates in China playing a significant role in East Asia.

There were considerable disparities in life expectancy across regions, with Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Oceania experiencing the highest overall gain of 8.3 years in life expectancy globally. Despite this, these regions also saw the smallest reduction in life expectancy due to COVID-19, at 0.4 years.

The impact of COVID-19 on global life expectancy was profound, resulting in a decrease of 1.6 years between 2019 and 2021, marking the most significant decline in global life expectancy estimates.

The study emphasized the importance of ensuring equitable access to life-saving interventions for diseases like ischemic heart disease, stroke, and other non-communicable diseases across all countries, irrespective of resource constraints. Additionally, advancements in reducing mortality rates from vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles were noted, with under-5 deaths from measles concentrated in Western and Eastern sub-Saharan Africa.

In conclusion, the study underscored the critical threats posed by digestive diseases, cirrhosis, diabetes, and kidney diseases to global life expectancy, emphasizing the need for sustained efforts in disease prevention and healthcare improvement initiatives.