A new report commissioned by the US government has found South Africa has the lowest life expectancy in the world.
The report, titled “An Aging World: 2015“, found the world’s older population continues to grow at an unprecedented rate.
Today, 8.5% of people worldwide (617 million) are aged 65 and over – and this is projected to jump to nearly 17% of the world’s population by 2050 (1.6 billion).
The report was commissioned by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the US National Institutes of Health, and produced by the US Census Bureau.
While much of the world is expected to see a boom in older populations, the growth will be much slower in Africa – particularly South Africa, where the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has given the country the lowest life expectancy out of all countries covered.
The research found that South Africa’s life expectancy at birth was only 49.7 years of age in 2015. While South African men are expected to live a little longer (50.7 years), women fare worse, at 48.7 years.
This number is significantly lower than figures reported by Stats SA, which puts the average life expectancy at birth at 61 years in 2015, while the World Health Organisation puts it at 60 years.
The list of 194 countries by the WHO shows Sierra Leone to have the worst average life expectancy rate in the world, at 46, with Lesotho at an average age of 50, while the average life expectancy of a person from the Central African Republic is 51. In Angola, Chad, and DRC, it’s 52.
According to the report, however, Sierra Leone has a life expectancy of 58.7 years – while the average global life expectancy is 68.6 years, expected to reach 76.2 years by 2050.
While the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South Africa is seen as the key factor in the low life expectancy, the US Census Bureau did note a turning in the tide.
“Decreases in mortality due to HIV/AIDS has changed the prospects for South Africa and removed it from the list (of nations in population decline).”
As such, looking forward to 2050, South Africa’s life expectancy is expected to climb to 63.2 years of age at birth – still lower than the global average, but higher than many other African nations.
Over this period, the country is expected to maintain a total fertility rate of 2.0 children, while the population of people over the age of 65 is expected to jump from 3.1 million in 2015, to 5.6 million in 2050.
Population aging affects many aspects of public life, from acute and long-term health care needs, to pensions, work and retirement, transportation, and housing.
Among the older population worldwide, noncommunicable diseases are the main health concern – particularly in low-income countries (many in Africa), where the older population faces a considerable burden from both noncommunicable and communicable diseases.