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Great news: people around the world are living longer than ever

Children at a festival in Nepal, where the average life expectancy at birth has almost doubled since 1960.
Children at a festival in Nepal, where the average life expectancy at birth has almost doubled since 1960.
Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization has some good news for the world: Babies born today are likely to live longer than ever before, and the gains are particularly dramatic in the parts of the world where life expectancy has lagged most. Worldwide, life expectancy is just under 74 years for women and just over 69 years for men.

Babies born today across Africa can expect to live almost 10 years longer than those born in 2000, the biggest gains in life expectancy anywhere in the world.

That's particularly heartening news because although life expectancy has gone up rapidly around the world, including across Africa, since 1960, the gains stalled in the 1990s as the AIDS epidemic spread. The WHO says the improvement in the past 16 years is the result of better HIV treatment, progress in controlling malaria, and reduced child mortality.

Life expectancy is still much lower in some African countries than in the rest of the world. In 2014, it was just 60 years, compared to 77 years in Europe and the Americas. Still, the average life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa has gone up 18 years between 1960 and 2014, according to the World BankAnd the WHO points out that the gap between Africa and Europe has narrowed by five years since 2000.

The gains in life expectancy at birth around the world since 1960 have been dramatic elsewhere, too. Babies born today in Nepal can expect to live to 69, a 34-year increase since 1960. Bhutan, Turkmenistan, China, Tunisia, Oman, and Iran have also seen life expectancy increases by at least 30 years:

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