Thursday, April 14, 2011
This will be old news to most readers, but here are a few graphs and maps concerning life expectancy around the world, with the data coming from the UN World Health Statistics 2008. The map above shows life expectancy. You can see at a glance that it has a lot to do with income. This next chart plots life expectancy versus GDP/capita (in 2008, but expressed in 2005 dollars at PPP from the Penn World Tables).
Generally, life expectancy improves with wealth, but no amount of money, at the present level of technology, can get a country above the low eighties. Japan is the country with the highest life expectancy in the world at 83. The US has unusually low life expectancy for its income level: this is a less desirable aspect of "American exceptionalism", with most developed countries having 1-5 years more life than Americans, on average.
It's pretty clear from the shape of this graph that there's going to be a problem of diminishing returns to additional health care spending.
The global pattern of disease is well summarized by this next graphic, which looks at the total "years lost" due to premature death, per unit of population:
Low income countries have much higher levels of infectious disease deaths, whereas those of us in the developed world mainly die of non-communicable things like heart disease, cancer, strokes, etc.
Finally, this last map was a surprise:
Given the unusually high health care costs in the US, it's interesting that we have a rather low number of doctors for a developed country.