Increases in human life expectancy have slowed dramatically across the world since 1950, according to a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Although a “ceiling effect” is expected as average lifespan approaches its biological limit, the study found that the trend towards slower gains — and even declines — in lifespan is worst among low-lifespan countries.
“This is not about us hitting the ceiling; the slowdown has been sharpest in countries that have the most life expectancy to gain,” said Dr. David Bishai, professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of population, family and reproductive health.
The finding, reported in BMC Public Health on January 17, does not have a clear explanation, although it shows that progress in health technology since 1950 has not been enough to keep longevity increasing at its historic rates in populations.
“It’s a rebuke to the idea that you can fix global health just by inventing more stuff,” Dr. Bishai says, adding “New health technology has been essential to making strides in life expectancy, of course, but our predecessors in the 1950s were making faster progress with the basics of soap, sanitation and public health.”