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Lesotho has lowest life expectancy

by Sunday Express
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lesothoA STUDY by experts at the University of Washington has revealed that Lesotho has the lowest healthy life expectancy in the world ahead of Swaziland and the Central African Republic.

Healthy life expectancy refers to the number of years a person lives in good health as opposed to life expectancy, which is an estimate of how many years a person might be expected to live. It takes into account not just mortality, but also the impact of non-fatal conditions and summarises years lived with disability and years lost due to premature mortality.

The research was conducted by an international consortium of researchers working on the Global Burden of Disease study, led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

The experts noted that global life expectancy was rising faster than healthy life expectancy – meaning people were enduring more years of illness or disability. This was, in part, a result of marked declines in death and illness caused by HIV/AIDS and malaria in the past decade and significant advances made in addressing communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional disorders.

The study of 188 countries identified heart disease, lower respiratory infections (those affecting the airways and the lungs) and stroke as causing the greatest degree of health loss, globally.

Life expectancy for both sexes had risen by 6.2 years, from 65.3 in 1990 to 71.5 in 2013, with healthy life expectancy at birth rising by 5.4 years, from 56.9 years in 1990 to 62.3 in 2013.

However, Lesotho and Swaziland’s healthy life expectancies fell by 10 years between 1990 and 2013. In 2013, Lesotho had the lowest healthy life expectancy, at 42 years, and Japan had the highest globally, at 73.4 years. Lesotho’s 23 percent HIV/AIDS prevalence rate makes it second-highest only to Swaziland in the world.

As both life expectancy and healthy life expectancy increase, the study notes, changes in rates of health loss become increasingly crucial. The researchers used DALYs, or disability-adjusted life years, to compare the health of different populations and health conditions across time.

One DALY equalled one lost year of healthy life and was measured by the sum of years of life lost to early death and years lived with disability.

The leading global causes of health loss, as measured by DALYs, in 2013 were heart disease, lower respiratory infections, stroke, lower back and neck pain, and road injuries, with the causes differing by gender.

For males, road injuries were a top-five cause of health loss, but these were not in the top 10 for females, who lose substantially more health to depressive disorders than their male counterparts.

However, the fastest-growing global cause of health loss between 1990 and 2013 was HIV/AIDS, which increased by 341.5 per cent.

This is despite health loss due to HIV/AIDS having diminished by 23.9 percent since 2005 because of global focus on the disease.

The impact of other ailments, such as diarrheal diseases, neonatal pre-term birth complications, and lower respiratory infections, had also significantly declined.

According to the study, Lesotho leads the countries with the highest rates of DALYs, which also include Swaziland, Central African Republic and Guinea-Bissau.

Meanwhile, countries with the lowest rates of health loss include Italy, Spain, Norway, Switzerland, and Israel.

The study also examined the role that socio-demographic status – a combination of per capita income, population age, fertility rates, and years of schooling – played in determining health loss.

The researchers’ findings underscored that the factors accounted for more than half of the differences seen across countries and over time for certain leading causes of DALYs, including maternal and neonatal disorders.

Professor Theo Vos of IHME, the study’s lead author, said: “The world has made great progress in health, but now the challenge is to invest in finding more effective ways of preventing or treating the major causes of illness and disability.”

IHME director, Dr Christopher Murray, also said: “Factors including income and education have an important impact on health but don’t tell the full story.

“Looking at healthy life expectancy and health loss at the country level can help guide policies to ensure that people everywhere can have long and healthy lives no matter where they live.” – Staff Writer.

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