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Global life expectancy forecast to rise nearly 5 years by 2050

The Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) 2021, predicts a notable rise in global life expectancy by 2050.
The Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) 2021, predicts a notable rise in global life expectancy by 2050. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

The Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) 2021, predicts a notable rise in global life expectancy by 2050. Males are expected to see an increase of 4.9 years, while females are projected to gain 4.2 years. This growth is driven by improvements in public health and medical interventions across various diseases.


The study highlights that the most significant gains in life expectancy will occur in countries currently experiencing lower life expectancies. This trend will contribute to a more uniform life expectancy across different regions.


 
 

Public health measures have played a crucial role in improving survival rates from cardiovascular diseases, COVID-19, and various communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional diseases (CMNNs).


Global and super-regional life expectancy, 1990–2050 for females (A) and males (B)
Global and super-regional life expectancy, 1990–2050 for females (A) and males (B). (CREDIT: The Lancet)

The research indicates a continuing shift in disease burden from CMNNs to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes. This shift is driven by exposure to risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, poor diet, and smoking. As a result, while people are expected to live longer, many will spend more years in poor health.


 
 

Global life expectancy is forecasted to rise from 73.6 years in 2022 to 78.1 years in 2050, a 4.5-year increase. Healthy life expectancy (HALE) – the average number of years a person can expect to live in good health – is predicted to grow from 64.8 years in 2022 to 67.4 years in 2050, marking a 2.6-year increase.


The study forecasts cause-specific mortality, years of life lost (YLLs), years lived with disability (YLDs), disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), life expectancy, and HALE from 2022 to 2050 for 204 countries and territories. The findings indicate that the disparity in life expectancy across different regions will decrease over time.


 

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Dr. Chris Murray, Chair of Health Metrics Sciences at the University of Washington and Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), stated, “In addition to an increase in life expectancy overall, we have found that the disparity in life expectancy across geographies will lessen. This is an indicator that while health inequalities between the highest- and lowest-income regions will remain, the gaps are shrinking, with the biggest increases anticipated in sub-Saharan Africa.”


Dr. Murray emphasized the importance of policy interventions aimed at preventing and mitigating behavioral and metabolic risk factors to further reduce the global disease burden.


 
 

The GBD 2021 risk factors study, also published in The Lancet, found a 50% increase in the total number of years lost due to poor health and early death attributable to metabolic risk factors since 2000. This highlights the growing impact of factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, and non-optimal diets on global health.



Alternative Scenarios


The study also explored various alternative scenarios to assess the potential health outcomes of different public health interventions aimed at eliminating exposure to key risk factors by 2050.


Dr. Stein Emil Vollset, the first author of the study and leader of the GBD Collaborating Unit at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, noted, “We forecast large differences in global DALY burden between different alternative scenarios to see what is the most impactful on our overall life expectancy data and DALY forecasts. Globally, the forecasted effects are strongest for the ‘Improved Behavioral and Metabolic Risks’ scenario, with a 13.3% reduction in disease burden (number of DALYs) in 2050 compared with the ‘Reference’ (most likely) scenario.”


 
 

Two additional scenarios were considered: one focused on safer environments and another on improved childhood nutrition and vaccination. Amanda E. Smith, Assistant Director of Forecasting at IHME, commented, “Though the largest effects in global DALY burden were seen from the 'Improved Behavioral and Metabolic Risk’ scenario, we also forecasted reductions in disease burden from the ‘Safer Environment’ and ‘Improved Childhood Nutrition and Vaccination’ scenarios beyond our reference forecast. This demonstrates the need for continued progress and resources in these areas and the potential to accelerate progress through 2050.”


 YLD proportion (%) of total DALYs by country and territory, 2022.
YLD proportion (%) of total DALYs by country and territory, 2022. (CREDIT: The Lancet)

Dr. Murray concluded, “There is immense opportunity ahead for us to influence the future of global health by getting ahead of these rising metabolic and dietary risk factors, particularly those related to behavioral and lifestyle factors like high blood sugar, high body mass index, and high blood pressure.”


 
 

The GBD 2021 findings underscore the importance of targeted public health interventions and policies to manage and reduce the global disease burden. By addressing key risk factors and improving health measures, the projected increases in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy can be achieved, leading to a healthier global population by 2050.


For more information on the GBD 2021 risk factors report, visit https://bit.ly/GBDRisks2021.





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