Life expectancy continues to rise

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Life expectancy continues to rise

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Koreans born last year can expect to live into their 80s, according to figures released Tuesday by Statistics Korea, with the average life expectancy for women at 85.4 years and the average life expectancy for men at 79.3 years.

Overall, current 1-year-olds can expect an average lifespan of 82.4 years, up 20.1 years from babies born in 1970. The figure indicates significant quality-of-life improvements from over a generation ago.

In 1970, average life expectancy was 62.3 years old, with a gap of more than seven years between both genders. Women could expect to live until they were 65.8 years old, and men until they were 58.7 years old.

The longevity gap continued to widen until 1985, when it reached a peak of 8.6 years, and then began to narrow to the current six-year gap.

Tuesday’s data applies to the 406,300 babies born last year. The number of births was a seven-year-low, falling 7.3 percent from a year earlier. The figure roughly translates to a fertility rate of 1.17 children per woman, one of the lowest in the world.

For these newborns, male babies have a 1.1 percent probability of living to 100, while the figure is higher for female babies at 3.8 percent. Boys born last year have a 57.9 percent probability of living to 80, while girls have a 78.4 percent probability.

Korean life expectancy has gradually risen in line with the country’s economic growth over the past half century, from the low 60s in 1970 to 70 in 1990. It took another 20 years for the country to reach a life expectancy of 80 years.

The life expectancy of Korean girls born last year is 2.3 years higher than the average among OECD countries. For boys, it is 1.4 years higher than the OECD average.

Statistics Korea projected that life expectancy could rise for both genders by 3.9 years if there are medical breakthroughs in cancer research, while heart disease-related breakthroughs will boost the figure by 1.5 years.

The data showed that Koreans born last year have a 21.3 percent probability of dying from cancer. For heart disease, the probability of death is 11.8 percent, and for cerebrovascular diseases, it is 8.8 percent.


BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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