They say the only two certainties in life are death and taxes, but while taxes are readily measurable, your hour of death is generally less so. We can hazard a guess using our lifestyle choices and genetic history, but the Keith Richards of this world make this an uncertain exercise. The government and others often calculate projected life expectancies by using the hard facts from each of the country’s administrative areas. Which areas are the best and the worst? It may be time to swap your terraced house in Glasgow for a Kensington penthouse if it’s longevity you’re after.
"Since the 1980s, experts thought the increase in life expectancy would slow down and then stop, but forecasters have repeatedly been proved wrong."
Philippa Roxby Health expert, BBC
The closing gender gap
It stands to reason that those living in areas of lower social class, with lower incomes, worse health records and economic deprivation are generally put out of their misery sooner than their more affluent cousins. But there are some counterintuitive tricks to a longer life according to the data. For instance, strange though it may seem, working longer can actually help you live longer.
Traditionally, men haven’t lived as long as women, but life expectancy for men has increased at a slightly higher rate than for females in recent years, causing an overall narrowing of the gender gap. The simple fact is, we’re becoming more similar across the board – the ladies are putting away booze, fags and kebabs at levels approximating those of men, although both sexes are becoming more healthy in this regard. Women are also now well represented in even the most traditionally men-only jobs, which also tended to have an impact on life span.
Where we stand
The UK came 14th in a 2010 global UN list of life expectancies at birth. The average for men and women was 80.1 years, with the male average standing at 78.1 and females four years better off at 82.1. Japan was the global front runner with an average of 82.7, while Mozambique was 194th (last) at 39.2 years. The vast majority of the worst off countries in terms of life span were in sub-Saharan Africa.
Grim (reaper) up north
The world's lowest and highest life expectancies
According to the United nations the country's with the lowest life expectancies:
- Mozambique 38.3 39
- Swaziland 39.8 39.4
- Zambia 42.1 42.5
- Sierra Leone 41.0 44.1
- Lesotho 42.9 42.3
And the top 5 countries with the highest life expectancies:
- Japan 79.0 86.1
- Hong Kong 79.4 85.1
- Switzerland 80.0 84.2
- Israel 80.0 84.0
- Italy 79.4 84.5