May 212010

Life expectancy in most European countries has increased steadily over the past couple hundred years at a rate of about 2.5 years per decade (25 years per century). In the developing world, the increase has been higher, between 3 and 5 years per decade.

Children in Zitácuaro, Michoacán. Photo: Tony Burton. All rights reserved.

In Mexico, life expectancy in the 1930s was only 37 years. In other words, Mexican children born in the 1930s were only expected to live for 37 years. Of course, many lived far longer, but many died long before they reached age 37. Mexican life expectancy increased rapidly and was up to 54 years in the 1950s. It reached 64 by the mid 1970s and by the mid 1990s, was up to 74. Life expectancy in Mexico today is 77 years. Of course, women live longer than men: the life expectancy today is about 79 years for women and 75 years for men.

If Mexico continues to increase its life expectancy by 2.5 years a decade, today’s average Mexican newborn will have excellent odds of living to be 100 or more. Of course, to reach age 100, these Mexicans will have to avoid obesity and diabetes. Currently, Mexico ranks second to the US in rate of obesity among major countries and is first in rate of diabetes.

Actually, the common definition of life expectancy at birth is rather conservative. It assumes that as babies born in 2010 age, they will die at the same rate as all current cohort groups. For example when babies born in 2010 reach age 80 in 2090, they will die at the same rate as current 80-year-olds. Thus there is no allowance for advances in health care such as cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc. With the current rate of genetic advances, improved cures and treatments for today’s fatal diseases are almost assured. Therefore, we expect the death rate of 80-year-olds in 2090 to be far less than the death rate for 80-year-olds in 2010.

Life expectancy at birth is discussed in chapter 9 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico.

  2 Responses to “Mexican babies born in 2010 can live to be 100!”

  1. Thanks for the kind words, Frank. We agree! Obesity and diabetes have become, arguably, the major public health challenges for Mexico. PS We like your blog, too.

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