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The average number of years babies born around the world are expected to live without any serious medical or health issues increased by about 5 years since 2000.

Expand chart
Data: World Health Organization; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Why it matters: The developed world is having fewer children and will soon have a much larger population of retired, elderly people with health care needs. This is likely to cause significant financial strain on government programs and the labor force in many countries. But if people are staying healthy longer, it could lessen some of those economic impacts.

Key quote: "There’s a potential for some significant positive offset through higher elderly workforce participation," Richard Jackson, president of the Global Aging Institute, told Axios. "It’s also possible — but not certain — that health spans will continue to rise along with life spans, and that may take some pressure off."

Highlights:

  • China surpassed the U.S. for healthy life expectancy for the first time in 2016. Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center, told Axios that one reason is that obesity and drug use are not as common in China.
  • Syria has one of the most dramatic declines in healthy life expectancy, as the country has been plagued with civil war, ISIS and a refugee crisis.
  • The U.S.'s healthy life expectancy has dropped by 0.2 years since 2010. Overall life expectancy has also dropped the past few years, which has been attributed, at least in part, to the opioid crisis.
  • Japan and Singapore have some of the lowest fertility rates in the world. But the Japanese and Singaporeans are also some of the healthiest, longest-living people in the world. One reason is their diets.
  • "Compared with other developed nations, Japanese people on average eat fewer calories per day, and in a healthier pattern," Naomi Moriyama, who has written a book on the subject, told the Today Show.
  • In addition, Singapore's healthcare system is efficient and effective, according to the Cigna Global health insurance company.

Go deeper

NASA estimates Tonga volcano exploded with force of 5-6 megatons

A satellite image of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Dec. 24, before the eruption. Photo: Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

NASA scientists estimate the power of Tonga's volcanic eruption over the weekend to have been 5-6 Megatons of TNT equivalent.

Threat level: Saturday's eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai volcano and subsequent tsunami killed at least three people. Scientists warn an "ash-seawater cocktail" poses a potentially toxic health threat, and drinking water could be contaminated.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

New York AG alleges "significant evidence" of Trump Organization fraud

Combination images of former President Trump and New York State Attorney General Letitia James. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Scott Heins/Getty Images

New York's attorney general filed a motion Tuesday seeking to compel former President Trump and his two elder children to appear for sworn testimony in her office's civil investigation into the Trump Organization's financial dealings.

Why it matters: Attorney General Letitia James revealed new details in the court filing and a statement on her office's investigation into the Trump Organization's business practices, including a preliminary finding alleging the company used "fraudulent and misleading asset valuations to obtain economic benefits."

4 hours ago - Technology

Ex-N.Y. Post digital chief files lawsuit alleging sexual harassment

Richard B. Levine) (Photo by Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

Former New York Post editor Michelle Gotthelf is suing her former employer, its parent company News Corp. and two editors, alleging she was reprimanded after complaining to senior executives that she was sexually harassed by retired N.Y. Post editor-in-chief Col Allan. The N.Y. Post issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.

Why it matters: "I felt that I owed it to myself and I owed it to the news organization and the people who answered to me," Gotthelf, who was a long time editor at the N.Y. Post, told Axios in an interview.