Life span numbers show geography is history

Tina Edwin New Delhi | Updated on January 16, 2018

Better healthcare narrows disparity between States, urban-rural areas

When it comes to life expectancy, geography is now gradually becoming history: that’s what the newest set of data published by the Registrar-General of India appears to suggest. And that’s a good thing.

Life expectancy typically depends on where one is born. In the 1970s, for instance, a child born in Kerala was expected to live almost 20 years longer than a child born in Uttar Pradesh.

But according to the latest data set, published in the Abridged Life Tables – 2010-14 of the Sample Registration System, that gap across States has come down by almost half. Indicatively, a child born in Kerala is expected to live about 11 years longer than one born in Uttar Pradesh or Assam.

Healthy convergence

The gap is still glaringly wide, but the converging trend relative to the 1970s points to a more even spread of healthcare access and advances in medicine, which has helped lower the infant mortality rate and increased people’s life span.

Likewise, the life expectancy gap between urban and rural areas has narrowed – from about 11 years in the early 1970s to five years. .

For instance, in the early 1970s, life expectancy in rural areas was 48 years (males: 48.9 years; females: 47.1 years). In urban areas, it was 58.9 years (males: 58.8 years; females: 59.2 years).

In the latest data set, life expectancy in rural areas has improved to 66.7 years (males: 65.1 years; females: 68.4 years). And in urban areas it is 71.7 years (males: 70 years; females: 73.5 years).

Strikingly, rural life expectancy today is now about the same as urban life expectancy was in the second half of the 1990s.

Overall life expectancy of Indians has increased from 49.7 years during 1970-75 to 67.9 years for the period 2010-14.

Significantly, the life expectancy for females has recorded a more rapid increase in both urban and rural areas, as compared to males. Women are not only outliving men, they are adding more months to their lives with each passing year.

Indicatively, life expectancy for females increased by 20.6 years between the 1970s and now (from 49 years to 69.6 years). In comparison, life expectancy for males has increased by a relatively modest 16.9 years, from 50.5 years to 66.4 years.

One of the surprising findings was the emergence of Jammu and Kashmir at the top of the life expectancy ranking across the age spectrum, displacing Kerala. A Jammu and Kashmir resident is expected to live a few months to a year longer than a resident of Kerala.

Published on October 26, 2016

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