21 September 2017

Nigeria's Life Expectancy Has Increased By 8 Years, Study Shows

Photo: Lauren Everitt/AllAfrica
(file photo).

The life expectancy in Nigeria has increased considerably even though people in many other sub-Sahara African countries still live longer and healthier lives, the Annual Global Burden of Disease Study, published last week in the international medical journal, The Lancet, has revealed.

The study shows that a Nigerian man born in 2016 can expect to live 63.7 years, an increase in life expectancy of seven years over the past decade, while a woman has a life expectancy of 66.4 years, up 8.1 years from 2006.

But the study was quick to stress that illnesses and injuries can take away years of healthy life, adding that a Nigerian male born in 2016 will live approximately 55.5 years in good health, while a female will live a healthy life of approximately 57.2 years.

Nigeria has a higher life expectancy than South Africa , Niger , and Cameroon , but lags behind Kenya , Rwanda , and Ethiopia .

According to the Director, Centre for Healthy Start Initiative, Jacob Olusanya, while lending his voice to the study, said: "Life expectancy in Nigeria is growing, but people in many other sub-Sahara African countries are living longer, healthier lives. Communicable diseases like malaria, diarrhea, lower respiratory diseases, and HIV are still taking the lives of far too many Nigerians. Infants and children are at particular risk from these diseases, and neonatal ailments like sepsis and encephalopathy kill thousands of infants. We have much more work to do," he said.

He said, the top five causes of premature deaths in Nigeria are malaria, diarrheal diseases, HIV, neonatal encephalopathy, and lower respiratory infection, noting that the ailments that cause illnesses can be very different, with iron-deficiency anemia, back pain, and migraines topping the causes of years that people live with disability in Nigeria .

"Deaths of children under five are a persistent health challenge. For every 1,000 live births, 46.6 Nigerian children under the age of five die. That far exceeds the global figure of 38.4, and the regional average of countries in western sub-Sahara Africa , which is 40.7. Only a few countries in the region - such as Niger , Mali , and Chad - have higher rates of under-five mortality.

"Moreover, in 2016, for the first time in modern history, fewer than five million children under age five died in one year, as compared to 1990 when 11 million died," he added.

The study, which is the world's largest scientific collaboration on population health, also shows that globally, countries have saved more lives over the past decade, especially among children under five, but persistent health problems, such as obesity, conflict, and mental illness, comprise a 'triad of troubles,' and prevent people from living long, healthy lives.

Researchers attribute the global health landmark to improvements in increased educational levels of mothers, rising per capita incomes, declining levels of fertility, increased vaccination programmes, mass distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, improved water and sanitation, and a wide array of other health programmes funded by development funding for health.

"Death is a powerful motivator, both for individuals and for countries, to address diseases that have been killing us at high rates," said the Director, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington , Dr. Christopher Murray.

"But, we are being much less motivated to address issues leading to illnesses. A 'triad of troubles' - obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders - poses a stubborn and persistent barrier to active and vigorous lifestyle," he added.

He said the study also shows that one of the most alarming risks in the Global Burden of Diseases (GBD) is excess body weight, adding that the rate of illness related to people being too heavy is rising quickly, and the disease burden can be found in all socio demographic levels. "High body mass index (BMI) is the fourth largest contributor to the loss of healthy life, after high blood pressure, smoking, and high blood sugar.

"Deaths over the past decade due to conflict and terrorism more than doubled. Recent conflicts, such as those in Nigeria , Syria , Yemen , South Sudan, and Libya , are major public health threats, both in regard to casualties and because they lead to long-term physical and mental consequences.

"Mental illness and substance use disorders continued to contribute substantially to the loss of healthy life in 2016, affecting all countries regardless of their socioeconomic status. Treatment rates for mental and substance use disorders remain low. Even in high-income countries where treatment coverage has increased, the prevalence of the most common disorders has not changed."

Murray said the GBD is the largest and most comprehensive epidemiological effort to quantify health loss across places and over time, noting that it draws on the work of over 2,500 collaborators from more than 130 countries and territories.

"IHME coordinates the study. This year, more than 13 billion data points are included; the papers comprise a complete edition of The Lancet. This year's GBD improves upon the previous annual update through new data, improvements in methodology, and a measure for tracking completeness of vital registration information," he said.

Other findings of the study shows that poor diet is associated with one in five deaths globally; non-communicable diseases were responsible for 72 per cent of all deaths worldwide in 2016, in contrast to 58 per cent in 1990. It also shows that within the past decade, diabetes rose in rank order from 17th to 9th leading cause of death in low-middle income countries.

Continuing, the findings show that tobacco is linked to 7.1 million deaths, and in more than 100 countries, smoking was among the leading risk factors for loss of healthy life.

"The leading causes of premature death globally included: ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections, diarrhea-related diseases, and road injuries. Ischemic heart disease was the leading cause of premature death for men in 113 countries and for women in 97 countries.

Only four of the leading 20 causes of disability in 2016 - stroke, COPD, diabetes, and falls -were also leading causes of death," the GBD study shows.

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