South Korea is on track to achieve the highest human life expectancy of all time, according to a new study published in The Lancet [PDF]. As the BBC reports, rates in the country are likely to break age 90 by the year 2030.
For their research, Imperial College London and the World Health Organization studied the lifespans of residents in 35 industrialized countries. The life expectancy of a baby born in South Korea today is 82, putting the country in 11th place globally. In the next 13 years, the female life expectancy is set to surpass 90, placing South Korea ahead of current world leaders such as Japan, Switzerland, and Singapore. The country’s male lifespan will also increase, but to the lower age of 84.
The upward trends projected for South Korea can be seen across the globe. Life expectancy rates are projected to improve in every one of countries researchers analyzed. As male and female lifestyles become more similar, the mortality gap between genders will also start to close. The probability of a worldwide life expectancy boost was found to be 65 percent for women and 85 percent for men.
According to the study, the countries with the longest lifespans by 2030 will be the following: South Korea, France, and Japan for women, and South Korea, Australia, and Switzerland for men. The United States likely won’t earn a top slot. By that time the American life expectancy is predicted to be 80 for men and 83 for women, the worst statistics of any wealthy country. The U.S. currently ranks 31st overall.
The researchers cite lack of universal healthcare and high inequality as factors holding the country back. The nations that perform best, on the other hand, "do so by investing in their health system and making sure it reaches everyone,” researcher Majid Ezzati tells the BBC.
The new findings not only apply to projected life expectancy at birth but also past age 65. Most of the gains made in longevity will come from improved health in seniors rather than reduced mortality rates in children. The study is based on the assumption that countries will continue to progress in the same direction over the coming years. Unforeseen factors, such as natural disasters or medical breakthroughs, could skew the data one way or the other.