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life expectancy

  The average number of years to be lived, generally derived from life table calculations, either from birth or from a particular age (usually denoted as ex, where x is age). Life expectancy at birth, eo, is frequently used as a summary measure of mortality for the whole population; life expectancy generally increases during the first year, because of infant mortality, but thereafter the decline is generally steady. Life expectancy has improved dramatically in most countries during the twentieth century: in the USA, eo for the population as a whole was around 76 years in 1996; and in Europe eo for males was in the low-middle 70s, and for females well into the 70s or early 80s — e.g. in Sweden, 81.5 years for females in 1996, and 76.2 for males. Much of the developing world has also seen sharp improvements in life expectancy, especially since mid-century, as a consequence of improved nutrition, public health and medical care, whose most important effects are frequently to reduce the level of infant mortality (see health and health care, geography of; medical geography). But life expectancy in Africa, for example, was still only in the mid-50s for both men and women in 1996. (PEO)

Suggested Reading Jones, H. 1990: Population geography. London: Paul Chapman, ch. 3.



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