Men are expected to have a similar life expectancy as women by 2030, according to new research. A study carried out by Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO) analysed the lifespans of 35 industrialised countries and how they are likely to change in the years to come.
While South Korea is seen to have the best conditions for the elderly to live the longest going forward, there are likely to be improvements in the UK too. At present women are expected to outlive men, with an average age of 82 and 79 predicted respectively.
By 2030, the gap is likely to have closed a little, with women having a life expectancy of 85 and men 83, the study said. This is the result of the two genders, which have traditionally led very different lifestyles, becoming more similar.
Professor Majid Ezzati, who lead the research, told the BBC: “Men traditionally had unhealthier lifestyles, and so shorter life expectancies. They smoked and drank more, and had more road traffic accidents and homicides, however, as lifestyles become more similar between men and women, so does their longevity.”
Meanwhile, in South Korea, women there will be the first to have life expectancies exceeding 90 years of age. This is down to the country having found a food balance in many areas of health. These include education and nutrition.
South Korea is currently much better than other countries at dealing with hypertension, which is a common problem for older people. It is also among the nations with the lowest obesity rates worldwide, helping to stave off many health conditions.
Japan, which has long held a space near the top of the list for longevity, is expected to fall in global rankings. The US is also likely to drop, as the society as a whole is very unequal. This can lead to poor nutrition in early life, which has a knock-on effect later. With large sections of the population having a lower life expectancy, it brings the overall average down.
As people all over the world will be living longer in the next 15 years, it will have implications for how different societies and cultures deal with the elderly. Among the areas that will need consideration will be pensions and healthcare.