Life expectancy is a numerical measure of the length of time a person or living organism may live by taking into consideration their time of birth, current age, and other factors that may affect their normal way of life. Life expectancy of individuals of a given age is the average number of years that these individuals are likely to live when they are predisposed to similar mortality factors (Kennelly, Oshea & Garvey, 2003). Life expectancy of individuals varies among countries; with high-income countries recording very high life expectancy compared to low and middle-income countries. On the other hand, mortality or mortality rate, in this case, is the number of deaths in a given population per unit time. The mortality rate is usually reported as the number of deaths per 1000 individuals in a year. For example, a mortality rate of 10 in a population in a given year would indicate that there were 10 deaths per 1000 individuals in that year.
There is a significant relationship between life expectancy and mortality, and in most cases these two scenarios go hand-in-hand. The factors that affect life expectancy in most instances play a part in mortality rates of individuals. Some factors like food, proper health care, availability of water, famine, and poverty contribute to life expectancy and mortality rates of individuals. Food is an indispensable commodity for the survival of humans, but a lifestyle that is characterized by the regular consumption of a balanced diet ensures a higher life expectancy as a result of promoting good health. On the contrary, unavailability of proper and adequate food may contribute to the death of the individuals affected. As seen, food as a factor has a double significance in life expectancy and mortality (Council, 2013).
Below is a statistical data for the mortality rates of individuals in selected countries in 2014, according to CIA World Factbook.
Country Mortality Rate (Deaths per 1000 Individuals)
South Africa 17.49
Guinea Bissau 14.54
Central African Republic 14.11
Table 1: Mortality Rates in Selected Countries (CIA World Factbook, 2014)
As seen earlier, life expectancy is high in high-income countries compared to low-income and middle-income countries (Council, 2013). Below is a table summarizing the life expectancy ages of selected countries and regions of the world. The information below is courtesy of the World Food Program, 2013.
Area Total Males Females
Africa 54 52 55
Asia 67 65 68
Asia (Excluding China) 64 63 66
Developed Countries 75 72 79
Europe 74 70 78
Latin America (and Caribbean) 71 68 74
Less Developed Countries 64 63 66
North America (Including Canada and U.S.) 77 74 80
World 67 65 69
Table 2: Life expectancy in Selected Regions (WHO, 2013)
Life expectancy of individuals in many countries has been increasing significantly over the years. Research shows that life expectancy has been increasing by about four months since the 1950s; to date this trend still holds. Infants and children are accounting for most mortality rates in middle and low-income countries, as opposed to high-income countries (Kennelly, Oshea & Garvey, 2003). From previous research, it has been reported that women have a higher life expectancy compared to men. However, this natural advantage has been eroded by continuous exposure of individuals to life-threatening conditions like inadequate food, health care, and education. Most infants who successfully get over five years have been found to live to adulthood and even old age. This improvement in the control of infant mortality rates has been attributed to improved food and water supply, sanitation, education, health care, nutrition, and higher incomes.
Food and nutrition is one of the key factors affecting life expectancy and mortality rate. Individuals who have adequate and balanced food are healthy. Having a good health ensures that the body fights off harmful diseases hence significantly promoting high life expectancy. On the other hand, insufficient and unbalanced food, particularly in low economy countries reduces life expectancy and contributes to high mortality rate (Council, 2013).
Access to clean water and sanitation promotes the likelihood of development and spread of water-borne and food-borne illnesses. Water harbors numerous pathogenic microorganisms; thus water needs to be treated before dispensed to people for use. In addition, provision of adequate sanitation reduces the chances of illnesses to occur, and this contributes to high life expectancy. Mortality may occur when the safety of water and proper sanitation is not ensured (Kennelly, Oshea & Garvey, 2003).
Thirdly, having a responsive and adequate health care facilities and services may promote high life expectancy. Countries with well-established health care systems have seen a great step towards improving life expectancy and reducing mortality rates. Having an educated population may have a great impact towards promoting life expectancy and reducing mortality rates. As the adage says, Education is power, people will learn and practice ways of promoting good health and also be cautious to avoid things that may compromise good health. Educating the population on matters pertaining sanitation and hygiene promotes a cautious culture that will help in the fight against mortality (Council, 2013). Education of women, in particular, will ensure that they provide better care to their children, and they will as well provide knowledge that will help their children. Also, educated mothers have smaller and healthier families
In conclusion, life expectancy and mortality are closely related. The discussion furthered herein suffices to conclude that the factors that affect life expectancy also have a relation to mortality. The major factors are food and nutrition, health, education, high-income, natural calamities like famine and so forth.
In addition, high-income countries record lower mortality rates and a higher life expectancy. This is as a result of improvements in the factors that affect mortality and life expectancy. Generally, women have a higher life expectancy due to their natural advantage over men.
Council, S. B. (2013). Life expectancy & mortality.
Hertz, E., Hebert, J. R., & Landon, J. (1994). Social and environmental factors and life expectancy, infant mortality, and maternal mortality rates: results of a cross-national comparison. Social science & medicine, 39(1), 105-114.
Kennelly, B., OShea, E., & Garvey, E. (2003). Social capital, life expectancy and mortality: a cross-national examination. Social Science & Medicine, 56(12), 2367-2377.
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