Quality of life
Chile boasts region’s highest life expectancy
Chileans can now hope to live to the ripe age of 79, higher than anywhere else in the region and 11 years more than the global average.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Chile made important strides in public health in the last 20 years, according to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report.
Chile made important strides in public health in the last 20 years, according to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report, “World Health Statistics 2011.” Not only has Chile achieved the highest life expectancy in the region, 79 years for men and women, the same as the United States. This place’s Chile’s average life expectancy 11 years higher than the global average, 68. A child born in 1990 would have had a life expectancy of 72. This increase of seven years in the last two decades is one of the largest increases in the region, second only to Bolivia, which increased from 60 to 68.
The increase in life expectancy can be attributed to various factors, but two highlighted hypotheses include Chile’s advances in education, and a greater number of women entering the workforce in the last 20 years. Average years of education has increased from 8.1 years to 9.7 years during the same time period, and female participation in the labor force has increased from 28 percent to 44 percent.
Dr. Oscar Arteaga, director of the School of Public Health at Universidad de Chile, one of Chile’s top universities, added that poverty rates in Chile have decreased dramatically in recent decades, from 40 percent of the population at the beginning of the 1990’s to less than 20 percent today.
Other countries in the region that experienced gains in life expectancy - notably Bolivia and Peru - also benefited from a decrease in overall poverty. According to Arteaga, the three Andean nations succeeded in substantially reducing their rates of infant mortality, contagious disease, and improved their health services.
The difference between Chile and its neighbors, however, is that Chile had already substantially reduced these health indicators before the 1990’s, and life expectancy in Chile 20 years ago was about equal to life expectancy in Peru and Bolivia today.
According to the Centro Latinoamericano y Caribeño de Demografía (“Latin American and Caribbean Demographics Center”), Chile’s life expectancy should reach 82 years by 2050, approximating the current life expectancies in countries like Japan, New Zealand, and Iceland. Arteaga predicts Chile’s next step will be addressing inequality in the factors that determine life expectancy.