"Dramatic" increase in life expectancy since 2000

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Ties Boerma. Photo: UN

Life expectancy has increased dramatically, UN health experts said Thursday, pointing to a five-year improvement since 2000.

According to new data from the World Health Organization (WHO), Japanese women and Swiss men live the longest, averaging around 86 and 81 years respectively.

In Sierra Leone however, both sexes have the shortest life expectancy, at just 50 years.

Here's Daniel Johnson in Geneva.

The UN health agency says the five-year increase in life expectancy since the year 2000 is nothing short of "dramatic".

The increase is enough to reverse declines seen in the 1990s in Africa caused by the AIDS epidemic, and in Eastern Europe, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The greatest life expectancy change is in Africa, where people can expect to live on average more than nine years longer.

Improvements in child survival rates, malaria control and expanded access to HIV treatment are the reasons for this change for the better.

Women continue to outlive men, living on average more than four-and-a-half years longer, well past their 73rd birthday.

Here's Dr Ties Boerma, from WHO, which looked at health data from 194 countries.

"The difference between Europe and Africa in life expectancy in 2015 is 17 years; 78 years in Europe, 61 in Africa. In 2000 it was five years bigger."

But it's not good news for everyone, with life expectancy for newborns in 22 sub-Saharan countries estimated at less than 60.

Major differences in access to essential healthcare services are to blame.

And the inequality is clearest in Africa and the eastern Mediterranean, where WHO says life-saving health expenses are "catastrophic" for a significant number.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’20″

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