Most of us assume that on average, we will live longer than the generations that preceded us. Those of us in North America can take some comfort that we have the longest life expectancy in the world. On average, women will live to be 81 and men will live to be 76 years of age. Across the globe that average drops to 75 for women and 70 for men.
How has life expectancy changed in recent centuries and what are the contributing factors to those changes?
Life Expectancy in the Pre-Modern World
It may be hard and even disturbing to realize that prior to the 19th Century it is largely believed humans across the globe were only expected to live into their 30’s. There was a lack of understanding of sanitation overall and healthcare in general. In fact, up until about 1800, on average, life expectancy was the same across the planet.
Life Expectancy in the 1800’s
In the early 19th Century, health conditions began to improve, particularly in the richer, developing countries. This started an increase in life expectancy in these countries including North America and Europe. While life expectancy began to improve, it wasn’t until the 1950s we saw significant changes.
Life Expectancy in the 1950s
Medical breakthroughs and an increase in the improvement in healthcare began to really make a significant improvement in life expectancy in the 1950s. In North America and Europe where improvement was already being seen, male and female life expectancy rose to 68 years. Russia’s life expectancy increased to about 55 years and much of South America reached 50 years plus. China and the Far East saw life expectancy rates reach into the mid-forties as did part of the Middle East and Africa. These would continue to increase.
Life Expectancy in the 2010s
As we move forward, most countries continue to see increases in life expectancy. Those leading the world include Canada and Australia, followed by the United States, South America, Northern Africa and much of China.
While we may have our challenges when it comes to healthcare and poverty, most of the world has seen its life expectancy double within the last 200 years. That is pretty remarkable and a testament to the human spirit and ingenuity.
It can be easy to become negative about where we are in terms of healthcare and the progress of the human race. It is easy to read the headlines and get discouraged about where we are and where we are headed. The reality is we are living longer due to our ability to work together. That is worth considering.
At Fares J. Radel Funeral Homes and Crematory, our history goes back to the late 1800s. We have seen a lot and been through a lot. Along the way we’ve seen how the human spirit survives, and can even thrive, through loss and difficulties. We understand how working together with understanding is an unstoppable force.
If you are pre-planning for your final services or are in immediate need, we would be honored to help. Connect with one of our caring professionals and let’s start a conversation. We, after all, are all living longer. Let’s make the most of it