BY OLUSEYI AWOJULUGBE
Life expectancy in Nigeria has increased to 63 years for men and 66 years for women according to a recent study by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
Despite this increase, the study claims that lives lost to communicable diseases like malaria and HIV are still high.
“Life expectancy in Nigeria is growing, but people in many other sub-Saharan African countries are living longer, healthier lives. Communicable diseases like malaria, diarrhea, lower respiratory diseases, and HIV are still taking the lives of far too many Nigerians,” said Jacob Olusanya, director, Center for Healthy Start Initiative.
“Infants and children are at particular risk from these diseases, and neonatal ailments like sepsis and encephalopathy kill thousands of infants. We have much more work to do.”
The 2017 edition of the annual global burden of diseases study (GBD), which is composed of five peer-reviewed papers, was published The Lancet, a medical journal.
The study’s main findings for Nigeria include:
- A Nigerian man born in 2016 can expect to live 63.7 years, an increase in life expectancy of 7 years over the past decade. A woman has a life expectancy of 66.4 years, up 8.1 years from 2006.
- A Nigerian male born in 2016 will live approximately 55.5 years in good health; a female only 57.2 years. Nigeria has a higher life expectancy than South Africa, Niger, or Cameroon, but it lags behind Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia.
- The top five causes of premature death in Nigeria are malaria, diarrheal diseases, HIV, neonatal encephalopathy, and lower respiratory infection. The ailments that cause illness can be very different. Iron-deficiency anemia, back pain, and migraines are the top causes of years that people live with disability in Nigeria.
“For every 1,000 live births, 46.6 Nigerian children under the age of 5 die. That far exceeds the global figure of 38.4, and the regional average of countries in western sub-Saharan Africa, which is 40.7.”
In 2016, for the first time in modern history, fewer than five million children under age five died in one year, as compared to 1990 when 11 million died.
Researchers attribute this global health landmark to improvements in increased educational levels of mothers, rising per capita incomes, declining levels of fertility, increased vaccination programs, mass distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, improved water, and sanitation.
“Death is a powerful motivator, both for individuals and for countries, to address diseases that have been killing us at high rates,” said Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
“But, we’re been much less motivated to address issues leading to illnesses. A ‘triad of troubles’ – obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders – poses a stubborn and persistent barrier to active and vigorous lifestyles.”
Despite progress on reducing deaths, this “triad of troubles” – obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders – is preventing further progress.
The GBD is the largest and most comprehensive epidemiological effort to quantify health loss across places and over time. It draws on the work of over 2,500 collaborators from more than 130 countries and territories.