Using previously unavailable data, recently published in a survey by The Lancet, The Economist has provided a novel way of looking at health standards in China by breaking down life expectancy on a provincial scale and highlighting the country in the world that each of China’s provinces most closely resembles.
While China’s successful economic progress has been widely regarded around the world, not nearly as much recognition has been given towards the progress China has made regarding improving health standards and life expectancy. While a baby born in China in 1990 had an average life expectancy of 68, one born in 2013 had an average life expectancy of 76. This puts China in the top 100 countries in terms of life expectancy. (Barely, the CIA’s World Factbook puts China at number 99, just below Colombia, but above countries like Serbia, Thailand and Turkey.)
However, by breaking the life expectancy down to a province-by-province scale, the new data sheds much more light on how progress in China is distributed. Although the infographic makes it perfectly obvious that health standards in the East are significantly higher than those in the West, the mini-map in the corner, which compares average life expectancy at birth in 1990 and in 2013, shows that the West is in fact making rapid progress.
It is worth noting that life expectancy in Shanghai is equivalent to that of Switzerland, which ranks top 10 in the world. According to the World Fact Book, Hong Kong ranks seventh in the world with an average life expectancy of nearly 83, and Macau ranks fourth with an average life expectancy of 84.5. With an average life expectancy of about 80, Beijing has nearly the same average as that of the United Kingdom.
Perhaps most note-worthy is the fact that six provinces in China have a higher average life expectancy than the average in the United States which is about 79.7. In 1990, the U.S. had a life expectancy eight years higher than that of China. In the two decades since, China has managed to close that gap by more than five years.
We think this calls for a celebration! Bring out the cigarettes and red meats!
By Kevin Engle