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Life Expectancy for Countries

Updated February 11, 2020 | Reviewed By: Logan Chamberlain

The places where people live the longest

What Life Expectancy Means

Life expectancy is a measure of how long the average person lives in a given country. This is usually calculated by just averaging out the ages at which people die to get the mean value. 

See also: Life expectancy of men and women by country (full list)

This is different from "the age before which 50% of the population dies," which would be the median value. This is also different from "the most common age at which people die" which would be the mode value. The median and mode values for life expectancy are usually higher than the mean value. 

The big difference between the mean value and the others is that it's heavily affected by people dying young. People dying before their twenties skew the numbers much more than people living to 110. That means that countries with low life expectancies aren't necessarily places where people don't live long; they might just, unfortunately, be places where more people die early.

What affects high life expectancy

Low life expectancy might be largely driven by young deaths. But, high life expectancy is driven by a number of factors that different countries share in common.

Access to healthcare is a very big factor. Especially for older people, who are more prone to illness than young people, being able to see the doctor is very important. This means being able to afford the doctor's visit and being able to actually get to the doctor's office.

Another big factor in determining lifespan is family. Or community. Regular contact with loved ones is a huge plus in extending people's lives. If someone falls or has a health crisis, they're more likely to be found in time if they have people around them. And, perhaps a bit more sweetly, people just tend to have better health if they're socializing with people. Why this is true is up for debate, but lots of studies support the basic idea. One study from Johns Hopkins even argues that younger people who assist older people also see some health benefits.

And, in what might be the biggest placebo effect of them all, having a sense of purpose is a big plus. Having some goals and responsibilities drives a lot of people to live years longer than people who feel lost or unimportant. This might be a career goal or a hobby, or even taking care of a pet. The big thing is that, in countries with high life expectancy, their old people are more likely to feel engaged. This can be a cultural difference, or it can be geographical; old people are more likely to do things if they can physically get around. 

Gender differences, or, why men have lower life expectancies

One thing that you'll see on this list is that women almost universally have higher life expectancies than men. According to the World Health Organization, there are a couple reasons for this, cultural and biological. 

Biologically, women are less prone to certain cancers and heart diseases that cause a lot of deaths. And, newborn girls are more likely to reach their first birthday. There are also some biological factors that just haven't been properly explained or identified. (This isn't to say that women don't have their own medical problems, especially being misdiagnosed because of medical bias. But, these problems are less likely to be fatal).

Culturally, women are less prone to risky behaviors and are less likely to die in a violent conflict. This includes all kinds of behavior, from smoking to drinking, and from picking fights to showing off via dangerous stunts. This might be why marriage has a positive effect on men's life expectancy, but no effect on women's; married men are less likely to do risky things than unmarried ones, while women are already less at risk regardless if they're married. 

In a lot of developed countries this gap is actually shrinking. This might be because we're getting better at treating heart disease. Or, it might be because the push for gender equality has made it more acceptable for women to partake in risky behaviors like drinking. Or it might be both. 

The Rankings

We've given you some of the highlights in the sidebar, but here are the full rankings from the UN Human Development Report for 2019. Of the top 10 countries, four were in Europe and four were in Asia. Israel was the only Middle Eastern country in the top 20; the next closest regional country was Lebanon at rank 35. The highest ranking country in North America is Canada, at rank 14. The next highest North American country is Costa Rica at 31, then the United States at 35. 

Of the lowest ranked countries, all of which are in Africa, only Lesotho has an HIV/AIDS rate above 10%. HIV/AIDS has become much less prevalent over the past decade. According to UNAIDS, the rate of new cases in Africa has declined 28% since 2010. The life expectancy in these countries is low due to poor access to healthcare, especially for children and mothers, and to some ongoing armed conflicts. 

 

The Top 10 Highest

RankCountryAvg.WomenMen
1Hong Kong84.787.681.8
2Japan84.587.581.3
3Switzerland83.685.581.7
4Singapore83.785.781.4
5Italy83.485.481.1
6Spain83.486.180.7
7Australia83.385.381.3
8Iceland82.984.481.3
9Israel82.884.481.1
9South Korea82.885.879.7
 

The Top 10 (well, 11) Lowest

RankCountryAvg.WomenMen
174Mali58.959.658.1
174Cameroon58.960.257.7
176Equatorial Guinea58.459.657.4
177Guinea-Bissau58.059.956.0
178South Sudan57.659.156.1
179Côte d'Ivoire57.458.756.3
180Nigeria54.355.253.5
180Sierra Leone54.355.153.5
182Chad54.055.452.6
183Lesotho53.757.050.6
184Central African Republic52.855.050.6
 

Small Nations and Territories

CountryAvg.MenWomen
Monaco89.485.693.5
Macau84.681.687.7
San Marino83.380.886.1
Guernsey82.679.985.4
Jersey81.979.584.6
Bermuda81.478.284.6
Isle of Man81.379.683.2
Puerto Rico80.977.684.4
Taiwan80.277.183.6
Gibraltar79.676.782.6
St. Helena79.676.782.7
U.S. Virgin Islands79.476.282.8
Curaçao78.576.280.9
Sint Maarten78.376.080.8
Dominica77.274.280.3
Aruba76.973.980.1
Guam76.073.678.6
Maldives75.873.578.3
Northern Mariana Islands75.473.477.8
American Samoa73.471.375.6
Nauru67.463.370.9
Tuvalu66.964.769.2
These weren't included in the UN report, but do have some published data. Source: CIA World Factbook, 2017

 

Life Expectancy by Country for Women and Men in 2020

RankCountryAvg.WomenMen
1Hong Kong84.787.681.8
2Japan84.587.581.3
3Switzerland83.685.581.7
4Singapore83.785.781.4
5Italy83.485.481.1
6Spain83.486.180.7
7Australia83.385.381.3
8Iceland82.984.481.3
9Israel82.884.481.1
9South Korea82.885.879.7
11Sweden82.784.480.9
12France82.585.479.6
13Malta82.484.180.5
14Canada82.384.380.3
14Norway82.384.380.3
15Luxembourg82.184.280.0
15Ireland82.183.780.4
15New Zealand82.183.980.4
15Netherlands82.183.880.4
15Greece82.184.579.6
20Portugal81.984.778.8
21Andorra81.8
22Finland81.784.678.9
23Belgium81.583.879.1
24Austria81.483.879.0
25Germany81.283.678.8
25United Kingdom81.283.079.5
25Slovenia81.283.978.4
28Cyprus80.882.978.7
28Denmark80.882.877.8
30Liechtenstein80.5
31Costa Rica80.182.777.5
32Chile80.082.477.6
33Czech Republic79.281.876.6
34Barbados79.180.477.7
35Lebanon78.980.877.1
35United States78.981.476.3
37Cuba78.680.676.7
38Poland78.582.474.6
39Panama78.381.675.2
39Croatia78.381.575.1
41United Arab Emirates77.879.277.1
41Uruguay77.881.474.0
43Oman77.680.175.9
44Slovakia77.480.873.8
45Turkey77.480.374.4
46Bosnia and Herzegovina77.379.774.8
47Bahrain77.278.376.3
48Colombia77.179.974.3
49Antigua and Barbuda76.978.075.7
49Thailand76.980.773.2
51Ecuador76.879.674.1
51Montenegro76.879.274.3
51Sri Lanka76.880.173.4
54Algeria76.777.975.5
54People's Republic of China76.779.174.5
54Hungary76.780.173.1
57Argentina76.579.973.1
57Iran76.577.775.4
57Morocco76.577.775.2
57Peru76.579.373.8
57Tunisia76.578.574.5
62Saint Lucia76.177.474.7
63Malaysia76.078.274.1
64Romania75.979.472.5
65Serbia75.878.573.3
66Brazil75.779.472.0
66Brunei75.777.074.6
66Lithuania75.781.270.1
66North Macedonia75.777.773.7
71Kuwait75.476.574.7
72Vietnam75.379.471.2
73Latvia75.279.970.1
74Honduras75.177.472.8
75Mexico75.077.872.1
75Saudi Arabia75.076.673.8
77Armenia74.978.471.2
77Bulgaria74.978.571.4
77Mauritius74.978.471.5
80Belarus74.679.469.4
80Saint Kitts and Nevis74.6
82Belize74.577.771.6
83Jamaica74.476.072.8
83Jordan74.476.272.7
85Nicaragua74.377.870.7
86Guatemala74.176.971.1
86Paraguay74.176.372.2
88Dominican Republic73.977.270.8
88Marshall Islands73.9
88Palestine73.975.672.3
91Bahamas73.875.971.5
92Palau73.7
93Georgia73.678.069.2
RankCountryAvg.WomenMen
94Trinidad and Tobago73.476.170.8
95Seychelles73.377.369.8
96Kazakhstan73.277.368.8
96Samoa73.275.371.2
98El Salvador73.177.668.2
99Azerbaijan72.975.370.3
100Cabo Verde72.876.069.3
100Solomon Islands72.874.771.2
102Libya72.775.869.9
103Grenada72.474.970.1
103Russia72.477.666.9
103St, Vincent and the Grenadines72.475.070.2
106Bangladesh72.374.370.6
107Venezuela72.176.168.4
108Ukraine72.076.767.0
109Egypt71.874.269.6
109Moldova71.876.167.5
109Syria71.877.866.6
112Suriname71.674.968.4
112Uzbekistan71.673.769.4
114Bhutan71.571.871.1
114Indonesia71.573.769.4
116Kyrgyzstan71.375.567.3
117Bolivia71.274.268.4
118Philippines71.175.467.1
119Tajikistan70.973.268.7
120Tonga70.872.868.9
121Iraq70.572.568.4
121Nepal70.571.969.0
123Vanuatu70.372.068.8
124Sao Tome and Principe70.272.667.8
125Guyana69.873.066.8
126Mongolia69.774.065.6
127Cambodia69.671.667.3
128India69.470.768.2
129Botswana69.372.066.2
129Timor Leste69.371.467.3
131Rwanda68.770.866.5
132Kiribati68.172.164.0
132Turkmenistan68.171.664.6
134Federated States of Micronesia67.869.566.1
135Senegal67.769.665.5
136Laos67.669.465.8
137Fiji67.369.265.6
138Pakistan67.168.166.2
139Myanmar66.969.963.8
140Madagascar66.768.365.1
141Djibouti66.668.864.6
142Ethiopia66.268.264.4
142Gabon66.268.964.2
144Yemen66.167.864.4
145Eritrea65.968.263.8
146Sudan65.166.963.3
147Tanzania65.066.863.2
148Mauritania64.766.363.1
149Afghanistan64.566.063.0
150Congo, Republic of64.365.762.8
150Papua New Guinea64.365.663.0
152Comoros64.165.962.4
153South Africa63.967.460.5
154Ghana63.864.962.7
154Malawi63.866.960.7
156Haiti63.765.861.5
156Liberia63.765.162.3
158Zambia63.566.460.5
159Namibia63.466.260.4
160Kenya63.368.764.0
161Uganda63.065.260.7
162Niger62.063.260.9
163Gambia61.763.260.4
164Benin61.563.059.9
165Burkina Faso61.261.960.4
165Burundi61.263.059.4
165Guinea61.261.760.5
165Zimbabwe61.262.659.5
169Angola60.863.758.1
169Togo60.861.659.9
171Congo, Democratic Republic of the60.461.958.9
172Mozambique60.263.057.1
173Eswatini59.464.055.3
174Mali58.959.658.1
174Cameroon58.960.257.7
176Equatorial Guinea58.459.657.4
177Guinea-bissau58.059.956.0
178South Sudan57.659.156.1
179Côte d'Ivoire57.458.756.3
180Nigeria54.355.253.5
180Sierra Leone54.355.153.5
182Chad54.055.452.6
183Lesotho53.757.050.6
184Central African Republic52.855.050.6
World72.674.970.4
Source: The United Nations Human Development Report 2019
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