Life Expectancy

Life expectancy (LE) is a statistical measure of the average time an organism (in our case human) is expected to live, based on the year of its birth, its current age and other demographic factors including gender. There are great variations in life expectancy between different parts of the world, mostly caused by differences in public health, medical care, and diet. Comparing life expectancies from birth across countries can be problematic. There are differing definitions of live birth versus stillbirth even among more developed countries, and less developed countries often have poor reporting.

Worldwide, the average life expectancy at birth was 71.5 years, 68.4 years for males and 72.8 years for females over the period 2010–2015 according to United Nations World Population Prospects (UN Population Prospects, Revised 2015).

In the United States, African-American people have shorter life expectancies than their European-American counterparts. For example, white Americans born in 2010 are expected to live until age 78.9, but black Americans only until age 75.1. In contrast, Asian-American women live the longest of all ethnic groups in the United States, with a life expectancy of 85.8 years. The life expectancy of Hispanic Americans is 81.2 years (Center for Disease Control, CDC, 2019).

Overall, the United States ranks 49 globally in LE. The highest life expectancy is found in Monaco (Europe) and the lowest life expectancy is found in Angola (Africa) (“Life Expectancy”, 2019). Ranking 49 in the world in life expectancy doesn’t sound so bad when you consider over 200 countries contribute data but it is problematic and concerning given the comparative abundance of resources of the United States. Some argue that the United States, with access to health sciences, technology, and supported innovation should be a global leader in life expectancy rates with a much higher global ranking.


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Culture and Psychology by L D Worthy; T Lavigne; and F Romero is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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