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World Health Organization Reports Life Expectancy By Country

New figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO) discloses that the Japanese have the healthiest life expectancy among 191 countries in the world-74.5 years for those being born now. Major factors are thought to be their traditional low fat diet, good healthcare and low rates of heart disease and lung cancer.

But while people in Japan, Australia, France, Sweden, Spain and Italy enjoy the longest, healthiest lives, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has drastically reduced the average lifespan of people in sub-Saharan Africa. Sierra Leone has the lowest life expectancy of less than 26 years, followed by Niger, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana.

Instead of using death rates to calculate life expectancy, the WHO has developed a new indicator, which they named the Disability Adjusted Life Expectancy (DALE). With DALE the years of ill-health are weighted according to severity and subtracted from the overall life expectancy to give years of healthy life.

One of the biggest surprises with DALE was the relatively low position of the United States, which was 24 on the list. With an overall life expectancy of 70 years, the United States ranks below Greece (72.5 years), Switzerland (72.5) Monaco (72.4) and Andorra (72.3), which round out the top 10. Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the WHO Global Program on Evidence for Health Policy states that the United States has high levels of heart disease, obesity and cancers relating to tobacco use.

In most industrial countries women live longer than men because they are more health conscious, smoke less, have better diets and are more active. In North African nations and the Middle East healthy life expectancy for men and women is similar, while in Russia women tend to live 10 years longer than men. Alcohol abuse and cardiovascular disease are thought to be among the main causes.

In China, which has 20 percent of the world's population, men (61.2 years) and women (62.3 years) have similar life expectancies. Vietnam's life expectancy has improved to 58.2 years and Thailand's to 60.2.
Cuba has achieved the highest healthy life expectancy in Latin America at 68.4 years. It is not far behind the United States and just ahead of Uruguay, Argentina and Costa Rica.

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