Korea’s life expectancy on the rise, data shows

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Korea’s life expectancy on the rise, data shows

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New health data shows that Koreans are aging well, with their life expectancy rating higher than the majority of member countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

This development highlights a significant advancement in life expectancy compared to the poverty-stricken postwar period more than 40 years ago.

Average life expectancy for Koreans in 2011 stood at 81.1 years, according to the OECD’s Health at a Glance 2013, the same as that in Luxembourg, Austria and the UK.

The figure remains a full year above the OECD average of 80.1. In 1960, Korea’s life expectancy was almost 16 years below the OECD average, according to the organization.

Switzerland topped the list with the longest life span at 82.8 years, followed by Japan and Italy at 82.7. Canada, Germany, Greece and Portugal ranked right behind South Korea.

Denmark and the United States also trailed behind.

The OECD also included non-member countries such as China and Indonesia in its research for reference.

Between 1960 and 2011, Korea had the largest gains in life expectancy among OECD countries.

“Korea registered the greatest gain in life expectancy between 1960 and 2011, with an overall increase of 28 years,” the report said.

It attributed that achievement to improvements in living conditions, public health innovations and progress in medical care.

The report also outlined the overall status of public health care services and public spending on health.

“Although the share of public spending on health in Korea steadily increased during the past decade or so, rising from 38.6 percent of total health spending in 1995 to 55.3 percent in 2011, it remains well below the OECD average of 72.2 percent,” it said.

Countries with lower government spending include Mexico, Chile and the United States - below 50 percent - while Norway and Denmark dominated with the highest, at around 85 percent.

The health data also examined the distribution of resources in the health and medical sector, where Korea rated poorly.

In 2011, the number of doctors per 1,000 people in Korea was around two, the third lowest among member countries of the OECD.


BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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