By 2030, South Korea could become the first country in the world where women’s life expectancy hits 90 years, according to researchers. Other countries, such as France and Japan, are not far behind, with their longevity likely to stretch past 88 years. “As recently as the turn of the century, many researchers believed that life expectancy would never surpass 90 years,” said Majid Ezzati, a professor at Imperial College London and lead author of the study. In the 35 well-off countries studied, researchers believe life expectancy will improve across the board for the next 15 years, a development that could put serious strains on health care and social services, the study warns. “It is important that policies to support the growing older population are in place,” Ezzati said. “The social implications of this change will also likely require changes to pensions and retirement.”
The study notes that the gains in longevity in South Korea can be attributed to improvements in economic status, child nutrition and access to health care, as well as the significantly low rates of obesity and smoking among women in the east Asian nation. The United States, on the other hand, is falling behind, with life expectancy below most other high-income countries. Of the 35 wealthy nations studied, it had the highest child and maternal mortality, homicide rate, and body-mass index, and was the only one not to have universal health care. “The poor recent and projected U.S. performance is at least partly due to high and inequitable mortality from chronic diseases and violence, and insufficient healthcare,” the study concluded.
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