Nation’s women fifth for healthy life expectancy

LENGTHY LIFE SPANS::Japan was ranked first in the report by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and was followed by South Korea, Spain and Singapore

Staff writer, with CNA

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 - Page 3

Although Taiwan is battling grim economic prospects, it may take comfort from a report that said the nation’s women have the world’s fifth-longest healthy life expectancy.

Healthy life expectancy refers to people’s life span not affected by diseases.

The global report, sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation about the burden of illnesses countries have to bear, showed Japan leads the world by having the longest healthy life expectancy for both men and women, at 68.8 years and 71.7 years respectively.

It was followed by Singapore, Switzerland and Spain in the men’s category and by South Korea, Spain and Singapore in the women’s category.

Taiwanese women, with a healthy life expectancy of 69.6 years, came in fifth place.

Taiwanese men have a healthy life expectancy of 65.8 years, according to the report, which was conducted by 500 people in 50 countries and took five years to complete.

Published on Friday by the British medical journal Lancet in London, the report said life expectancy of people around the world increased dramatically in the four decades to 2010, by 11.1 years for men and 12.1 years for women.

It attributed the longer lifespan to improvements in sanitation and medical care, better food supplies and the reduction in child mortality prompted by illness and malnutrition.

However, alongside longer life spans comes more suffering from diseases, and more deaths from cancers, heart diseases and non-communicable diseases.

So although people’s life had lengthened by five years in the past two decades, only four of those years are healthy, the report said.

The major risk comes from high blood pressure, smoking and alcohol intake, which affected 9.4 million, 6.3 million and 5 million people respectively in 2010, according to the report.

Heart attacks and strokes were the leading causes of death, killing 12.9 million people in 2010 and accounting for one-fourth of global deaths that year.

Meanwhile, people who died from heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases constituted two-thirds of the global deaths in 2010, compared to one half in 1990, according to the report.