Life expectancy around the world is projected to improve by almost five years in men and by over four years in women between 2022 and 2050, according to a global study published in The Lancet journal.

Researchers said that the improvements are expected to be the highest in countries where life expectancy is lower, thereby contributing to an overall enhancement of life expectancy across geographies.

Public health measures preventing and improving survival rates from cardiovascular diseases, COVID-19, and a range of communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional diseases, are largely driving the trend of increasing life expectancy globally, the authors said.

“In addition to an increase in life expectancy overall, we have found that the disparity in life expectancy across geographies will lessen,” said Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington, US.

“This is an indicator that while health inequalities between the highest and lowest income regions will remain, the gaps are shrinking, with the biggest increases anticipated in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Murray. The IHME coordinates the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, the “largest and most comprehensive effort to quantify health loss across places and over time.”

However, the researchers from the GBD 2021 Forecasting Collaborators said that the ongoing shift in disease burden to non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular ones, cancer and diabetes, and exposure to associated risk factors including obesity and high blood pressure, will have the most impact on the next generation.

This shift was analysed to increase an individual’s years lived with disability or YLDs. Disease burden is the impact of a health problem on a given population, measured through varied indicators such as deaths, disability, or financial costs.

Therefore, as the disease burden shifts from that of communicable ones to non-communicable health problems, people are expected to live longer, but with more years spent in poor health, the researchers said.

They said that healthy life expectancy around the world, referring to the number of years one could expect to live in good health, will increase by 2.6 years in the coming years – from 64.8 years in 2022 to 67.4 years in 2050.

For India, the study has projected that by 2050, on average, men could have a life expectancy of over 75 years, while that for women could be almost 80 years.

Healthy life expectancy, however, was projected to be over 65 years for both men and women in India.

Drawing on the work of more than 11,000 collaborators, the GBD 2021 includes more than 607 billion estimates of 371 diseases and injuries and 88 risk factors in 204 countries and territories, according to the IHME.