Life expectancy increases by 24 yrs in Bangladesh

Shishir Morol | Update:

The average life expectancy in Bangladesh has increased by 24 years in the past four and a half decades since 1971.

The average lifespan has sharply doubled compared to the world's average life expectancy for the same period.

According to World Bank statistics, the average life expectancy of Bangladeshis was 47 in 1971 rising to 71 in 2016.

Heath experts say a decline in child mortality rates and deaths at a later age contributed to the rise in average life expectancy.

Former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), professor Mahmud Hasan said, "It's because of independence (of Bangladesh)."

In 200 years of British rule, the per capita income of people in this region did not increase.

It has increased after the independence as the independent nation has increased investment in the health sector.

Through community clinics, union-based health centres, district and upazila hospitals, medical colleges and hospitals, a unique health network has flourished, the professor added.

According to the World Bank, the average age of world inhabitants was 59 in 1971 and it is now 71, raising the average age by 12 in the past 45 years.

Bangladesh is ahead of Pakistan as average life expectancy of the South Asian nation increased 13 years in the past 45 years. The present average age of Pakistanis is 66 years which was 53 before the liberation war in 1971.

Among the SAARC countries, Maldives tops the list. Its average life expectancy is now 76 years. Maldives' average has risen 32 years in the past 45 years which is the same as Bhutan. 

Sri Lanka scores poorly in that same time period as the nation's average life expectancy has increased only 10 years in the last 45 years. Its average life expectancy was 64 in 1971 and it has now reached 74.

The UK medical journal 'The Lancet' published a study on 21 February on 35 industrialised nations that said a healthy lifestyle is the key to life expectancy growth. Investment in the education, health and social sectors brought about change in the industrialised nations.

The study shows that future populations of these countries will be living longer than today's. According to The Lancet study, South Korea's population will live as long as 90 years.

The study shows that two social determinants -- better earnings and improved education -- have a significant effect on life expectancy as these factors influence the nutrition, sanitation and health risk factors of people.

Director general of Directorate of General Health Services, professor Abul Kalam Azad, told Prothom Alo that the child mortality rate has decreased recently which has helped raise the average life expectancy of the country.  

He also said woman empowerment and social consciousness has further aided the increase in life expectancy.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla print edition, has been rewritten in English by Toriqul Islam

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