People around the world are now living on average six years longer than they would have in 1990, latest evidence indicates.

New data shows that global life expectancy has increased by 6.2 years due to the world’s efforts in improving the care of some of the deadliest health conditions, such as stroke, ischemic heart disease, lower respiratory infections and diarrhoea.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 did affect this rise in many regions of the world, recent figures have revealed.

Between 1990 and 2021, people living in Southeast Asia, East Asia and Oceania have seen the biggest increase in life expectancy, rising by approximately eight years.

This stark increase is down to less deaths occurring in the region from chronic respiratory diseases, lower respiratory infections, cancer and stroke, the study has reported.

In addition, this area managed the COVID-19 pandemic efficiently, meaning they were able to preserve these gains.

South Asia has seen a seven-year increase in life expectancy after they reduced the number of deaths caused by diarrheal diseases, the research has unveiled.

Senior author Dr Liane Ong said: “Our study presents a nuanced picture of the world’s health.

“On one hand, we see countries’ monumental achievements in preventing deaths from diarrhoea and stroke. At the same time, we see how much the COVID-19 pandemic has set us back.”

Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean were the regions where COVID-19 hit the hardest, causing their life expectancy to drop during this time, the researchers have said.

Fellow author Professor Mohsen Naghavi said: “We already know how to save children from dying from enteric infections including diarrheal diseases, and progress in fighting this disease has been tremendous.

“Now, we need to focus on preventing and treating these diseases, strengthening and expanding immunisation programmes, and developing brand-new vaccines against E. coli, norovirus, and Shigella.”

Co-author Eve Wool said: “The global community must ensure that the lifesaving tools that have cut deaths from ischemic heart disease, stroke, and other non-communicable diseases in most high-income countries are available to people in all countries, even where resources are limited.”

Read the study in The Lancet

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