Geographies in Depth

Healthy life expectancy in China is now better than in the US

A woman shops at a supermarket in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China November 10, 2015. China's October inflation data showed persisting if not intensifying deflationary pressure, spurring analysts to expect more moves to stimulate the slowing economy by year-end.   REUTERS/China Daily CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The Chinese figure has increased by 4 years since 2000. Image: REUTERS/China Daily

Kieran Corcoran
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State media in China were celebrating a victory over the US this week, as official health data shows that people there now on average enjoy a longer healthy lifespan than Americans.

The celebration included this tweet by the People's Daily state-controlled news outlet, which said: "Chinese people can look forward to a longer healthy life than Americans for the first time since records began."

And they're right, at least according to information compiled by the World Health Organization, a branch of the UN which publishes comparative data on health across the world.

Its latest figures, which are from 2016 but were only uploaded last month, show that the US healthy life expectancy is 68.5, and in China is 68.7.

That means Chinese people get 73 days, or around 10 weeks, of extra healthy life.


The 2015 results are the opposite way round, with the US on 68.6 and China on 68.4.

Healthy Life Expectancy is more or less what it sounds — the number of years of good health a person can expect to enjoy.

It is different from absolute life expectancy, which does not capture the difference between long, healthy lives and lives which end in protracted illness.

Here are how the two stack up over all the years for which the WHO publishes data:

Years of healthy live expectancy, comparing the US and China Image: Business Insider

Both China and the US are behind Canada and most of western Europe, which have results of 70 or above. Singapore is currently top with 76.2

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Geographies in DepthHealth and Healthcare Systems
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