Life Expectancy

V. Key Health Policy Issues >> A. Burden of Illness >> Avoidable Mortality >> Life Expectancy (last update 8.7.17)

International Estimates

Life Expectancy

Healthy Life Expectancy

  • Joshua A. Salomon, et al. “Healthy life expectancy for 187 countries, 1990–2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden Disease Study 2010” by  Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (December 2012). Researchers determined “healthy life expectancy” by estimating the frequency of 1,160 different health problems, weighting each by its relative severity, and subtracting people’s time spent with these conditions from overall life expectancy. For example, if a person spent his final year of life with a condition that left him half as healthy as a person with no health problems, six months were subtracted. More than 30,000 people were surveyed to determine the severity weights.
  • Washington PostHow long will we live — and how well?. Data visualization of life expectancy plotted against percentage of healthy years using Salomon data cited above. Users can select whether to display data for males or females for the years 1990 and 2010.

U.S. Estimates


  • Social Security Administration. Period Life Expectancy, 1940-2090. Period life expectancy is calculated assuming that everyone alive today experiences the same probability of death as their counterparts at older ages, i.e., that when today’s infants reach age 70, for example, they will experience the same death rate as today’s 70-year olds. Because of constant gains in life expectancy over time, this produces a conservative estimate of actual life expectancy.
  • Social Security AdministrationCohort Life Expectancy, 1940-2090. Cohort life expectancy is calculated based on the actual experience for a cohort. Cohort life expectancy for U.S. males born 1940 is about 9 years longer than period life expectancy for U.S. males born that year. SSA’s on-line life expectancy calculator provides cohort life expectancy estimates for males and females of any age and even pro-rates these based on the exact date of birth entered.
  • Social Security’s Flawed Forecasting. The method used by Social Security underestimates life expectancy by amounts ranging from a little over one half year to more than 19 months. Using more accurate projections, the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted 2 years earlier than officially forecast. The statisticians have made their methods, calculations and software available online at that others can replicate or improve such forecasts.
  • Congressional Budget Office. Table 1 shows how how expectancy has increased in the U.S. (years per decade) for selected periods between 1870-2010.
  • UC BerkeleyLife expectancy in the USA, 1900-98. Shows LE at birth for males and females for every year from 1900-1998. LE grew 60% for males, 65% for females over the period, with the gender gap growing from 2 years in 1900 to 4.6 years by 1998.

International Rank

  • Becker, Gary. Health Care-Becker (June 7, 2009). The author demonstrates that national differences in life expectancies are a highly imperfect indicator of the effectiveness of health delivery systems.
  • Mankiw, Gregory. Beyond Those Health Care Numbers, New York Times (11.4.07). Author labels the misuse of U.S. life expectancy stats “schlocky.”
  • O’Neill, June E. and Dave M. O’Neill. Health Status, Health Care and Inequality: Canada vs. the U.S. NBER (September 2007)The authors show that the efficacy of health care systems cannot be usefully evaluated by comparisons of infant mortality and life expectancy.
  • Preston, Samuel and Jessica Ho. Low Life Expectancy in the United States: Is the
    Health Care System at Fault? University of Pennsylvania (July 2009). This is a lengthy analysis of life expectancy statistics, concluding that “the low longevity ranking of the United States is not likely to be a result of a poorly functioning health care system.”
  • Roy, AvikThe Myth of Americans’ Poor Life Expectancy. (11.23.11).

Life Expectancy Calculators


  • DEALE. The declining exponential approximation of life expectancy (DEALE) can be used to approximate life expectancy for clinical decision-making. The calculation is made by taking the reciprocal of the age-, sex-, and race-adjusted life expectancy to obtain the baseline mortality rate:  1/LE. For example, the average annual mortality rate of a 67 year old white man with a life expectancy of 13.5 years is 1/13.5, or 0.074 per year.
  • Life expectancy for selected chronic diseases. Includes links to literature on life expectancy for cerebral palsy (CP), Vegetative State (VS), Minimally Conscious State (MCS), and Locked-In Syndrome (LIS), traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord injury (SCI), autism, Down Syndrome, developmentally disabled), and epilepsy.

On-Line Calculators

On-line calculators are listed in order of how much information is used in estimating remaining life expectancy.

Future Life Expectancy