Life Expectancy Gap Widens Between Women in Rich and Poor Countries

    01 October, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

    The World Health Organization says women aged 50 and older are generally in better health now than they were 20 to 30 years ago. But a new study confirms that older women in rich countries live longer than those in the developing world and the differences in life expectancy are widening.

    The World Health Organization says heart disease, stroke and cancers are the leading causes of death of women aged 50 years and older. But it says women in developing countries can often die from one of these problems at an earlier age.

    The study is one of the first to examine the causes of death of women aged 50 years and older from several rich and poor countries. It found that many women die at a young age because they live in places that lack for money to prevent, identify and treat non-communicable diseases.

    Colin Mathers is head of the WHO Mortality and Burden of Disease Unit. He says developed countries have the money and health systems to reduce and control heart disease. He says cancer of the cervix is one of the leading cancers among African women. He says the disease is largely preventable, but African countries have fewer resources to treat it.

    "There is simply not enough money to provide high quality health care to everyone that is accessible. And, also a matter of human resources, that there often are not enough trained doctors and nurses and other health professionals in the country."

    Dr. Mathers says donors give comparatively little money to fight non-communicable diseases in African. He says most of the money goes instead toward reducing the number of women dying during child birth. This has helped to bring down maternal mortality rates, but death rates among older women have increased.

    The study found on average, women over 50 live at least 3.5 years longer than they did 20 years ago. Older women in Japan now can expect to live 88 years. In Germany, the life expectancy rate for older women is 84. Women in many other developed countries can expect to live to age 83 or 84. But women in poorer countries die about 10 years earlier.

    Dr. Mathers says major risks for older women include smoking, the harmful use of alcohol, and being overweight or obese.

    The World Health Organization says the number of long-lasting diseases can be cut through cost-effective methods to stop common diseases. These include prevention, early identification and control of high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol.

    And that's the Health Report from VOA Learning English. I'm Milagros Ardin.