Updated 15 September 2017

South Africans are living longer, but there’s bad news

Life expectancy in South Africa is rapidly increasing, but the bad news is that the number of healthy years that men and women can expect to live has fallen over the past 25 years.

The latest Global Burden of Disease study data shows that South Africa continues to battle with HIV, road injuries and violence as well as diseases related to obesity.

“Life expectancy in South Africa is rapidly increasing, but that doesn’t mean we’re enjoying healthier lives,” said Professor Charles Shey Wiysonge, Director of Cochrane South Africa and a co-author of the study in a statement.

Fewer healthy years

“Communicable diseases like HIV, car accidents, and waves of violence are taking the lives of far too many South Africans, especially young people. South Africa is one of the few countries in the world where the number of healthy years that men and women can expect to live has fallen over the past 25 years,” he said.

The study, published in the medical journal the Lancet, is a peer-reviewed analysis of global data on causes of death, disease and risk factors to health loss is in its 20th edition. It is based on research from more than 130 countries involving the work of over 2 500 collaborators.

Globally, 2016 was the first time in modern history where fewer than five million children under the age of five died in one year. In 1990, for example, 11 million died.

'A lot of work to do'

The study warns that the “triad of troubles” of obesity, conflict and mental illness, including substance use disorders is threatening and preventing progress.

Excess body fat is associated with a range of health risks. A high body mass index (an indicator of obesity) is the fourth largest contributor to loss of healthy life, after high blood pressure, smoking and high blood sugar.

Furthermore, poor diet is associated with one in every five deaths in the world.

Said Wiysonge: “We have a lot of work to do.” – Health-e News.

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