Israel ranks 7th in global life expectancy rankings for 2040
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Israel ranks 7th in global life expectancy rankings for 2040

New study shows Spain unseating Japan to take top spot, China predicted to overtake US; Palestinians near bottom of list

An elderly couple walk on Jaffa street in downtown Jerusalem on February 20, 2017. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
An elderly couple walk on Jaffa street in downtown Jerusalem on February 20, 2017. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

With global life expectancy on the rise, Israelis in the year 2040 are projected to live among the longest, on average, on the planet, according to statistics released Wednesday.

At an expected 84.4, Israelis will be ranked seventh in the world in longevity, moving up from their current 13th place spot (82.1).

Meanwhile life expectancy for Palestinians is expected to drop the most out of any country in the next 22 years, sinking from 114th in 2016 (at 71.9) to 152nd place (at 72.2) in 2040.

Researchers at the University of Washington found that life expectancy in 2040 is set to rise at least a little in all nations, but the rankings will change dramatically, with Spain taking the top spot while China and the United States trade places.

For the world as a whole, the researchers’ study, published in The Lancet, projected a five-year gain in lifespan, from 73.8 in 2016 to 77.7 in 2040.

They also forecast more optimistic and pessimistic scenarios, in which life expectancy increases to 81 years in the first case, and essentially stagnates in the second.

“The future of the world’s health is not pre-ordained,” said lead author Kyle Foreman, head of data science at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

“But whether we see significant progress or stagnation depends on how well or poorly health systems address key health drivers.”

Spain on top

With a projected average lifespan of nearly 85.8 years, Spain — formerly in 4th place — will dethrone Japan, which sits atop the rankings today with a lifespan of 83.7 years but will drop to 2nd place in 2040.

After Spain and Japan, the countries with the greatest longevity in 2040 are projected to be Singapore (85.4 years), Switzerland (85.2 years), Portugal and Italy (84.5 years), Israel (84.4 years), France (84.2 years), Australia and Luxembourg (84.1 years).

In a shift that will be seen by some to reflect a superpower changing-of-the-guard, the world’s two largest economies effectively swap positions compared to 2016: in 2040 the US drops from 43rd to 64th (79.8 years), while China rises from 68th to 39th (81.9 years).

The researchers found other nations set to lose ground in the race toward longevity include Canada (from 17th to 27th), Norway (12th to 20th), Australia (5th to 10th), Mexico (69th to 87th), Taiwan (35th to 42nd) and North Korea (125th to 153rd).

Moving up the ranking are Indonesia (117th to 100th), Nigeria (157th to 123rd), Portugal (23rd to 5th), Poland (48th to 34th), Turkey (40th to 26th), Saudi Arabia (61st to 43rd).

Assuming its interminable and devastating war comes to an end, Syria is set to rise from 137th in 2016 to 80th in 2040.

Illustrative: A Filipino caregiver walks with an Israeli man sitting in a wheelchair on April 22, 2009. (Abir Sultan/Flash90)

Smoking and poor diet

The top five “drivers,” or determinants, of average lifespans two decades from now are all related to so-called “lifestyle” diseases: high blood pressure, being overweight, high blood sugar, along with alcohol and tobacco use.

More generally, the world will see an acceleration of the shift already under way from communicable to non-communicable diseases, along with injuries, as the top cause of premature death.

Ranking a close sixth is air pollution, which scientists estimate claims a million lives a year in China alone.

In 2016, four of the top-ten causes of premature mortality were non-communicable diseases or injuries. In 2040, that figure is expected to rise to eight-out-of-ten.

The world’s poorest countries in 2018 will continue to fare poorly when it comes to life expectancy, according to the study.

With the exception of Afghanistan, the bottom 30 countries in 2040 — with projected lifespans between 57 and 69 years — are either in sub-Saharan Africa or small island states in the Pacific.

An elderly Palestinian man fills a water container at a public tap at the Khan Yunis Water Authority’s wastewater treatment plant. (CC-BY-4.0 Muhammad Sabah B’Tselem/Wikipedia)

Lesotho, the Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, Somalia and Swaziland are in the rankings basement.

“Inequalities will continue to be large,” said IHME Director Christopher Murray.

“In a substantial number of countries, too many people will continue earning relatively low incomes, remain poorly educated, and die prematurely.

“But nations could make faster progress by helping people tackle the major risks, especially smoking and poor diet,” he added in a statement.

Tobacco consumption alone claims about seven million lives each year, according to the World Health Organization.

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