Life expectancy up in India, but people living longer with illness, says Lancet study

Life expectancy increased by 6.9 years for men and 10.3 years for women in the years between 1990 and 2013, says study

New Delhi: Life expectancy increased for Indian men and women in the years between 1990 and 2013, in line with the global trend, but it has been accompanied by people living longer with disability and illness, according to a study published in The Lancet.

Life expectancy increased by 6.9 years for men and 10.3 years for women in the period, said the study published on 27 August.

But so-called healthy life expectancy increased by less: men gained 6.4 years and women 8.9 years. Life expectancy for women in India still outpaces that of men, 68.5 years, compared with 64.2 years.

Healthy life expectancy takes into account not just mortality, but the impact of non-fatal conditions and summarizes years lived with disability and years lost due to premature mortality. The increase in healthy life expectancy has not been as dramatic as the growth of life expectancy, and as a result, people are living more years with illness and disability, the study found.

The study was conducted by an international consortium of researchers, including from the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). It was led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

“Healthy life expectancy in India is 12 years lower for women and 8 years lower for men than in neighbouring Sri Lanka,” said study co-author Lalit Dandona of PHFI. “This difference indicates that substantial health improvements in India are possible and that public policy should make this a top priority in order to enable India reach its optimal development potential.”

At a global level, thanks to marked declines in death and illness caused by HIV/AIDS and malaria in the past decade and the advances made in addressing disease, human health has improved significantly.

Global life expectancy at birth for both sexes rose 6.2 years (from 65.3 in 1990 to 71.5 in 2013), while healthy life expectancy at birth rose by 5.4 years (from 56.9 in 1990 to 62.3 in 2013).