Life Span of South Korean Women Is Headed Toward 90
Life spans in the world’s wealthiest countries will continue to increase in the future, and women in South Korea may be the first to live longer than 90 years on average, a new study has found.
The study — a mathematical model blending 21 other forecasts and published in The Lancet — gave South Korean women born in 2030 a 57 percent chance of hitting the over-90 longevity mark. The surest bet was that they would exceed age 86 on average.
Compared with women from 34 other industrialized nations the study assessed, South Korean women generally smoke less, weigh less, have lower blood pressure and see doctors more often because most have health insurance.
Women in France, Japan and Spain also were expected to live longer. Currently Japanese women live the longest, but their progress will probably stagnate, the study said.
South Korea also led the list for longevity in men, followed by Australia, Switzerland, Canada and the Netherlands; men from all of those countries were expected to live beyond 80 on average.
The United States, as usual, fared badly. American men and women are in 23rd and 27th place, respectively, in terms of life expectancy, and they were expected to fall farther as other countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, improve.
Although the United States has advanced medicine, it has an obesity epidemic, little focus on preventive care, relatively high mortality among babies of uninsured mothers, and high male death rates from gunshot wounds and car accidents.
American men live on average about as long as men in Slovenia and Portugal, and average longevity in other countries, including South Korea, the Czech Republic and Hungary, is improving faster.
The model assumes that current trends will continue. History often invalidates that assumption, however, because health is tied to political events.
Longevity in Africa rose rapidly in the 1950s and ’60s with the spread of antibiotics and vaccines, flattened as the collapse of colonialism bankrupted health care systems, plummeted in the 1990s with the spread of AIDS, and is now rising again as donors pay for AIDS drugs.
Among wealthier nations, progress in Eastern Europe followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. South Korea’s projected gains would most likely be seriously compromised if the current tensions with North Korea were to lead to war.