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Koreans living longer, women No. 3 in OECD

Dec 04,2018
Korean women are ranked third in the OECD for average life expectancy.

According to Statistics Korea 2017 figures, Koreans are now expected to live on average 82.7 years. That’s 3.5 more years than 10 years ago and 0.3 years longer than in 2016.

For men, the life expectancy of those born last year is estimated to be 79.7 years. This is 0.4 years longer compared to those born in 2016. As a result, the life expectancy for Korean men ranks at 15th.

Women, who generally live longer than men, saw their average life expectancy at 85.7 years. This is 0.3 years longer than those born a year ago. The average life expectancy puts Korean women in third place among OECD member countries.

In the OECD, only women in Japan (87.1) and Spain (86.3) live longer on average.

For Korean men, the life expectancy is 1.8 years longer compared to the OECD average, while for Korean women it is 2.4 years longer.

Life expectancy figures for most OECD countries are based on data from 2016. Mexico is the only other country among the OECD with a 2017 figure.

Statistics Korea said people in Korea now 60 years old are estimated to live an additional 22.8 years for men and 27.4 years for women. That’s 2.8 more years for men compared to 10 years and 2.7 more years for women.

The increasing life expectancy could become a problem for society, with more people having to work to later in life.

This could also mean that the government will have to continue increasing its welfare budget. The Moon Jae-in government has already increased next year’s budget on health and welfare to its highest level ever, at 138.7 trillion won ($124.8 billion). This spending is 29.5 percent of the 470.5 trillion won total budget.

By regions, Seoulites lived the longest, with life expectancy at 84.1 years, followed by Gyeonggi residents at 83.1 years.

Areas with the lowest life expectancy are North Chungcheong and South Gyeongsang, tied with a life expectancy of 81.9 years.

The statistics agency said one of the reasons the life expectancy of those in the cities is higher than those outside urban areas is largely due to access to better-quality medical facilities.

Cancer remains the biggest cause of death, accounting for 21.1 percent of the total. This is a slight improvement from the 21.5 percent of 10 years ago, but is much higher than the 17.3 percent of total deaths 20 years ago.

The statistics agency estimates that, if not for cancer, men will live 4.8 additional years and women 2.8 additional years.

While cancer has declined relative to other diseases, there has been a significant surge in death by pneumonia, which accounted for 8.9 percent of the total, up from 2.7 percent in 2007 and 1.1 percent in 1997.

According to Statistics Korea, death by pneumonia is increasing largely because average life expectancy is increasing and older people are more likely to die from the disease.

“Pneumonia is one of the main diseases that senior citizens suffer from,” said Kim Jin, head of the statistics agency’s population census division. “People dying of old age is increasing and so is the figure for pneumonia.”


BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]


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