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Popul Res. 1987 Apr;4(2):32-40.

An analysis on life expectancy of the world population and trend of increase in China's life expectancy.



Life expectancy is postively correlated with the per capita gross national product (GNP). There are exceptions, such as Qatar, which has a very high per capita GNP, but a life expectancy over 10 years less than the average level of developing countries. Also, in Sri Lanka, there is a relatively long life expectancy but low per capita GNP. Japan and Iceland have the longest life expectancy in the world, even though neither has the world's highest GNP. Life expectancy has been growing in developed countries since the beginning of the 1900s; presently it is relatively stable (70-75 years). Life expectancy in developing countries is growing fast. The world has experienced a "population explosion," but, because of birth control measures, the world population should stabilize gradually in the next century. Life expectancy is expected to keep increasing. Medical developments contribute to greater life expectancy. The 1st life-span revolution occurred in 1776 when the smallpox vaccine was developed; the 2nd occurred with the discovery of antibiotics in the early 1950s. According to World Health Organization estimates, life expectancy in developed countries should reach 75-80 years by the end of the century. In 1981 China's life expectancy was 67.9 years. According to a UN model, China's life expectancy will reach 73 years by 2000. Life expectancy is associated with not only the economy, but also social, cultural, and environmental factors. The favorable noneconomic factors which have helped to decrease mortality and increase life expectancy in China include 1) the socialist system which provides a moderate living for all and has developed the health care system; 2) widespread and longtime use of traditional medicine; 3) the oriental culture and ethnic group; and 4) the fact that in some developed countries with a low level of urbanization, life expectancy exceeds 70 years (China's urban population will be 40% by the year 2000). The author expects that China will only reach a life expectancy of 71-72 years by 2000. However, the 2nd strategic goal of China's economic development is to attain or surpass the world's advanced level in 30-50 years. Thus, China's life expectancy should reach 75 years by 2020, 78 by 2040, and nearly 80 by 2060.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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