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Is there an upper limit to how long we can hope to live? Scientists used to think our lifespans would stop increasing once they approached 90.
But a new study in the Lancet predicts South Korean women will surpass this age by 2030—and the rest of our life expectancies are increasing, too.
Imperial College London researchers used 21 statistical methods to project life expectancy in 35 industrialized nations based on current and past death rates.
The good news: Everyone’s lifespan is going to increase. But people in some countries will likely be living longer than those from other areas.
Americans, for example, are lagging behind the rest of the developed world. In fact, the U.S. has the lowest life expectancy by 2030 of any high-income country high-income country, according to the researchers. By 2030, men’s average lifespan will hit 79.5 while women’s reaches 83.3.
That puts the country at number 26 for men and 27 for women—even more behind than it already is.
Some possible reasons? We beat out other high-income countries in factors we don’t want to be ahead for: body mass index (BMI), homicides, and child and maternity mortality—all which are contributing to our shorter lives. In addition, the U.S. is the only high-income country without universal health coverage, and has the most people who can’t afford healthcare.
South Korea, on the other hand, has universal healthcare and an improving economy, leading to better nutrition and fewer chronic diseases.
Compared to the majority of Western countries, South Koreans have lower BMIs and blood pressure, and women smoke less. The country’s female life expectancy by 2030 is 90.8, while men’s is 84.1.
Men in Australia and Switzerland are also expected to live past 80.
While women across the world live longer than men, the difference isn’t as big as it used to be, and the researchers think it’ll keep narrowing as men get smarter about their eating, drinking, and safety.
Though there could be some genetic factors at play, the differences between countries are mostly cultural — which means we could all be living much longer lives.
“I don’t believe we’re anywhere near the upper limit of life expectancy,” lead author Majid Ezzati said in a press release, “if there even is one.”
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