Major improvements in global life expectancy, Africa is starting to catch up

WHS2016cover copy1Today we released World Health Statistics 2016, our annual publication summarizing information on the health of the world’s people . Global average life expectancy increased by 5 years between 2000 and 2015, the fastest increase since the 1960s. Those gains reverse declines during the 1990s, when life expectancy fell in Africa because of the AIDS epidemic, and in Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The gap between African life expectancy and European life expectancy has narrowed by 4.9 years since the year 2000. Big contributors to the African increase were improvements in child survival, progress in malaria control and expanded access to antiretrovirals for treatment of HIV.
The report is available at

World Health Statistics 2016 contains data from 194 countries on a range of mortality, disease and health system indicators, including life expectancy; illness and death from key diseases; health services and treatments; financial investment in health; and risk factors and behaviours that affect health. This is the 11th edition of World Health Statistics, which has been published annually since 2005.


This year we changed the format quite a bit, to focus on the health-related targets within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. The report highlights significant data gaps that will need to be filled in order to reliably track progress towards the health-related SDGs. For example, an estimated 53% of deaths globally aren’t registered, although several countries — including Brazil, China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, South Africa and Turkey — have made considerable progress in that area.

lifw-expectancy-310x200The report provides baseline statistics for close to 200 countries for the 13 health targets, as well as for 9 health targets in other SDG goals. These and many other health indicators are also available online in the WHO’s Global Health Observatory ( which provides access to an online database of more than 1000 health indicators.
While the Millennium Development Goals focused on a narrow set of disease-specific health targets for 2015, the SDGs look to 2030 and are far broader in scope. For example, the SDGs include a broad health goal, “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, and call for achieving universal health coverage. This year’s World Health Statistics shows that many countries are still far from universal health coverage as measured by an index of access to 16 essential services, especially in the African and eastern Mediterranean regions. Furthermore, a significant number of people who use services face catastrophic health expenses, defined as out-of-pocket health costs that exceed 25% of total household spending.

The World Health Statistics 2016 provides a comprehensive overview of the latest annual data in relation to the health-related targets in the SDGs, illustrating the scale of the challenge. Each year:
• 303 000 women die due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth
• 5.9 million children die before their fifth birthday
• 2 million people are newly infected with HIV, and there are 9.6 million new TB cases and 214 million malaria cases
• 1.7 billion people need treatment for neglected tropical diseases
• More than 10 million people die before the age of 70 due to cardiovascular diseases and cancer
• 800 000 people commit suicide
• 1.25 million people die from road traffic injuries
• 4.3 million people die due to air pollution caused by cooking fuels
• 3 million people die due to outdoor pollution
• 475 000 people are murdered, 80% of them men

Addressing those challenges will not be achieved without tackling the risk factors that contribute to disease. Around the world today:
• 1.1 billion people smoke tobacco
• 156 million children under 5 are stunted, and 42 million children under 5 are overweight
• 1.8 billion people drink contaminated water, and 946 million people defecate in the open
• 3.1 billion people rely primarily on polluting fuels for cooking

More detailed statistics for a wide range of health indicators are available in the WHO Global Health Observatory at

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2 Responses to Major improvements in global life expectancy, Africa is starting to catch up

  1. Boodram Persadi says:

    I am trying to find out how many persons are resident in the hospitals of the world on a daily basis. Average.

    • colinmathers says:

      We are doing facility surveys in selected countries which obtain information like this, but so far not enough to estimate the total people in hospital in the world. I am hoping that WHO may be able to start to collect more summary data on this as part of its work with countries to improve access to health services and achieve universal health coverage.

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