February 22, 2017 12:49 pm
Updated: February 22, 2017 1:50 pm

Why living longer than 85 years will be common by 2030

WATCH: Average life expectancy is set to increase in many countries by 2030 – and will soon exceed 90 years for the first time, according to new research.

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Count on plenty more birthday candles in the upcoming decades – a new study on life expectancy projects that people in 35 countries around the world should be living past 85 by 2030.

South Koreans may have the longest life expectancy in the world within 13 years, the Imperial College London study suggests. A baby girl born in South Korea in 2030 should live to almost 91 years, while men will expect about 81 years of life.

A 65-year-old in South Korea in 2030 may live an additional 27.5 years, too.

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Canada made the list of the top five countries with the highest life expectancy at birth for men. South Korea ranked first, followed by Australia (84), Switzerland (84), Canada (83.9) and the Netherlands (83.7).

Canada also ranked at the top when it came to the highest life expectancy for 65-year-old men in 2030. A man at 65 in 2030 should see 22.6 more years of life in Canada, followed by New Zealand (22.5), Australia (22.2), South Korea (22) and Ireland (21.7).

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The United States may have the lowest life expectancy at birth in 2030 among its peers of high-income countries. In 2030, life expectancy there is estimated at about 79.5 years for men and 83.3 years for women. That’s similar to middle-income countries, such as Croatia and Mexico.

The scientific community once thought that life expectancy of over 90 was an impossible feat, the researchers say.

“We repeatedly hear that improvements in human longevity are about to come to an end. Many people used to believe that 90 years is the upper limit for life expectancy but this research suggests we will break the 90-year barrier. I don’t believe we’re anywhere near the upper limit of life expectancy – if there even is one,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Majid Ezzati, said in a university statement.

So why are people living longer?

In South Korea, it may be because of a handful of factors from good nutrition in childhood, low blood pressure, low levels of smoking, good access to health care and uptake of new advances in medicine.

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“It’s basically the opposite of what we’re doing in the West, where there’s a lot of austerity and inequality,” Ezzati told the Associated Press. Genetics may play a role in life expectancy but his guess is that social and environmental factors are what’s dictating these disparities in life expectancy.

Meanwhile in the U.S., factors such as a lack of universal health care, obesity and a steep homicide rate may be what’s holding back life expectancy estimates there. The U.S. is the only high-income country without universal access to comprehensive health care.

While women traditionally live longer than men, the research suggests this gap is closing.

“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,” Ezzati said.

Still, across the board, women had higher life expectancies than men.

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Ezzati handpicked the 35 industrialized countries in the study because they all had reliable data on deaths since at least 1985. His team scoured the data, and created a methodology to predict life expectancy to 2030.

The study’s full findings were published in the journal The Lancet.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

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