Are Indians living longer, healthier lives compared to the 90s?

  • IANS, Washington
  • Updated: Dec 18, 2014 14:30 IST

India has made great strides in reducing both child and adult mortality since 1990, says a global study, adding that adults and children in the country are living longer and healthier lives than two decades earlier.

Involving more than 700 researchers and covering 188 countries, the study found that in India, the average yearly rates of decline in mortality have been 3.7% per year for children and 1.3% per year for adults.

Between 1990 and 2013, life expectancy at birth increased from 57.3 years to 64.2 years for males and from 58.2 years to 68.5 years for females.

"It is very encouraging that adults and children in the country are living healthier lives. But India's growing influence on global health means we must do more to address the diseases that kill people prematurely," said Jeemon Panniyammakal of the Public Health Foundation of India and a co-author of the study.

Published in the prestigious journal The Lancet, the findings showed that countries have made great strides in reducing mortality from diseases such as measles and diarrhoea, with 83% and 51% reductions, respectively, from 1990 to 2013.

"People are living much longer worldwide than they were two decades ago as death rates from infectious diseases and cardiovascular disease have fallen," it added.

Globally, three conditions- ischemic heart disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)- claimed the most lives in 2013, accounting for nearly 32% of all deaths.

Causes of death vary widely by country but at the global level, drug use disorders and chronic kidney disease account for some of the largest percent increases in premature deaths since 1990.

Death rates from some cancers, including pancreatic cancer and kidney cancer, also increased, said the study led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

"People today are less likely than their parents to die from certain conditions, but there are more people of older ages throughout the world," said IHME director Christopher Murray.

Global life expectancy for both sexes increased from 65.3 years in 1990 to 71.5 years in 2013 and women made slightly greater gains than men.

Female life expectancy at birth increased by 6.6 years and male life expectancy by 5.8 years.

If trends seen over the past 23 years hold, by 2030, global female life expectancy will be 85.3 years and male life expectancy will be 78.1 years.

"This is an encouraging trend as people are living longer. We just need to make sure we are making the right health policy decisions today to prepare for the health challenges and associated costs that are coming," Murray added.

Compared to previous Global Burden of Disease (GBD) studies, researchers from more than 100 nations incorporated more country-level data as well as additional data on specific conditions.

They found that the average age of death increased from 46.7 in 1990 to 59.3 in 2013, as a result of declining fertility and a demographic shift in the world's population to older ages.

Partly because of global population growth, the number of deaths in both sexes for all ages combined increased from 47.5 million to 54.9 million.

"Death rates for some cancers have fallen (lung by 9%, breast by 18 %, and leukemia by 20%)," the authors noted.

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