An international team of scientists announced Monday that people across the globe are living longer and healthier lives compared to a generation ago, an achievement researchers largely attributed to advances in medicalscience.
The new study found that the last few generations of humans are experiencing a boost in life expectancy that is unprecedented in the history of primates, the family of mammals that includes people, apes and monkeys.
Researchers from the United States, Germany, Denmark, Kenya and Canada reviewed birth and death records of more than 1 million people born worldwide from the 1700s to the present. The data included the records of those living in industrial societies, as well as modern day hunter-gather groups, the latter being included as a control group representing those without easy access to most contemporary amenities, such as supermarkets or vaccines.
The results show that a baby born in Sweden today, for example, can expect to live more than twice as long as one born there in the 19th century, when Swedish life expectancy hovered around 35 years, compared to the average Swede who now lives well past 80.
Interestingly, those living in industrial societies live 40-50 years longer than those living in traditional hunter-gatherer groups, as seen in the Aché people of Paraguay. These hunter-gatherers outlive wild primates by 10-20 years.
The research was published online Monday in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" by researchers from Duke University, Princeton University and the Max Planck Institute in Germany, along with other institutions.
"We've made bigger leaps in lengthening our lifespan over the last few hundred years than we have over millions of years of evolutionary history," co-author Susan Alberts of Duke University said in a statement.
One puzzling discovery in the data is that women still outlive men by two or three years, a statistic that has barely changed for centuries. The stubborn gender gap appears to exist for nearly all other primates as well.
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