Better healthcare key to longer life expectancy
Dubai - Life expectancy has risen by 4.6 per cent, but healthy life by only three per cent.
By controlling two ill-health factors such as obesity and diabetes, the UAE can offer another five years of life to its residents by 2021 even as researchers in a new study released on Wednesday calculated that an average 65-year-old woman in South Korea in 2030 may live an additional 27.5 years.
Already in the works, the UAE's National Agenda 2021 world class healthcare aims to increase life expectancy from the current 67.9 years (2015 figures published in 2016) to 73 years by 2021.
On Wednesday, a study led by scientists from Imperial College London in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), analysed long-term data on mortality and longevity trends to predict how life expectancy will change in 35 industrialised countries by 2030 and will exceed up to 90 years in South Korea. However, none of the Middle Eastern countries were included in the study that has been published in medical journal "The Lancet."
"Life expectancy is a prediction or forecast of the future," explained Dr Immanuel Azaad Monesaar, R.D, Assistant Professor of Health Policy at Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG).
"And in this case, life expectancy has to be either the population in terms of being healthier or the population and government helping the sick and elderly."
He, however, pointed out that the government had identified controlling NCDs as a crucial part of improving healthcare for all. "If incidences of only obesity and diabetes can be reduced, overall health of the population can be improved," added Dr Immanuel.
He said that as life expectancy increases, people will become older and the government will feel a burden in the long term and hence public health policies need to be developed to offer continuum of care to the elderly, treatment of chronic diseases as well as palliative care.
The UAE population currently is made up 83 per cent of expats and 17 per cent Emiratis. While the government pays for healthcare needs of Emiratis, majority of expats have to pay for insurance.
"An increase in healthy life years is one of the main goals for UAE health policy given that this would not only improve the situation of individuals (as good health and a long life are fundamental objectives of human activity) but would also lead to lower public healthcare expenditure," he said.
"It would likely increase the possibility that people continue to work later into life and not retire at 60."
This, he said will impact the UAE positively. "If healthy life years increase more rapidly than life expectancy, then not only are people living longer, but they are also living a greater proportion of their lives free from health problems."
Longevity across globe
Globally, over the last 20 years the gap has been getting wider. Life expectancy has risen by 4.6 per cent, but healthy life by only three per cent.
At the recently concluded World Government Summit, Dr Brad Perkins, Chief Medical Officer at Human Longevity, said scientists need to "hack the life code" to crack longevity. He said right now the world is looking for innovative ways to use science and technology to redesign the software of life, and the possibility of living to 200 is quite literally "possible".
However, an increase in life expectancy means economic, social as well as cultural challenges for a society.
How countries differ on life expectancy
Key points of the international study titled Future life expectancy in 35 industrialised countries: Projections with a Bayesian model ensemble" include:
The five countries with the highest life expectancy at birth for men in 2030 were: South Korea (84.1), Australia (84.0), Switzerland (84.0), Canada (83.9), Netherlands (83.7)
The five countries with the highest life expectancy at birth for women in 2030 were: South Korea (90.8), France (88.6), Japan (88.4), Spain (88.1), Switzerland (87.7).