Discuss the Factors That Lead To Low Health Expectancy in Developed Countries

 Discuss the  Factors That Lead To Low Health Expectancy in Developed Countries


In the past, population health had only been monitored using mortality-based measures like life expectancy and disability-free life expectancy. Life expectancy measures the number of years a population can expect to live while disability-free life expectancy measures the number of years spent without disability or limitation. These measures, however, were unclear on whether the number of years lived were in good health or not. As such, a need arose to fill that gap. Health expectancy was developed as a measure of the number of years on average, in good health that an average person can expect to live.

Factors contributing to low health expectancy in developed countries

According to statistics, third world countries have lower health expectancy as compared to developed countries. The main factors being under-nutrition, lack of vaccination and childbirth. All factors that do not affect advanced nations such as the U.K or China. The biggest factor contributing to low health expectancy in western countries is obesity. Countries such as Canada and the U.S have a much higher rate of obesity in both children and adults than in developing countries. Obesity causes a large number of diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and various heart diseases. Countries such as the U.S have included healthier meals such as fruit into their school cafeterias to prevent obesity while some states have gone as far as reducing taxes on healthy food produce (Chan, 2013). A supermarket in Kansas provides free fruit to kids below the age of 13. Countries in the U.K and Canada could stand to gain from similar strategies that have seen the number of obese individuals; especially children reduce significantly in the U.S.

Another factor contributing to low health expectancy in developed countries is tobacco smoking that is also a cause for many diseases such as lung cancer, bronchitis, coronary heart disease and acute myeloid leukaemia. What is worse about smoking is that even non-smokers are in danger of contracting said diseases through second-hand smoking. In the U.K, it estimated that about 207,000 children start smoking regularly. A survey revealed that almost 40% of adult smokers had started smoking regularly before the age of 16. This is attributed to the fact the cigarettes are easy to obtain and peer pressure. A way to reduce the high rate of smoking and smoking related diseases would be to make the prices steeper. This would in turn reduce the number of cigarettes individuals, especially children are willing to buy. In Canada, youth consumption of tobacco fell by 60% after prices were raised dramatically in the 1980’s.

Air pollution also causes low health expectancy especially in industrialized countries such as China. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is responsible for 7 million deaths annually.  What is alarming is that air pollution in China alone is responsible for more than a third of these deaths with 4,400 deaths every single day. Air pollution is cause for several diseases such as asthma, lung cancer, heart disease and strokes. The biggest step to solving this predicament would be substitute natural gas for coal. Some Chinese households and eateries still use boilers and stoves fuelled by wood and coal, which cause pollution. Another solution would be to remove older, high polluting cars from the roads. China has already begun going in this direction, with a third of these vehicles being scrapped between 2012 and 2015. Scrapping of these vehicles would eliminate 76% of carbon monoxide, 61% of nitrogen oxides and 70% of volatile hydrocarbons.


Factors contributing to low health expectancy in developed countries are easily preventable especially obesity that has been on a steady decline. In the future, individuals, institutions and governments alike should pay more attention to solving the low health expectancy problem in western countries.



Chan, S. S. (2013). Fighting Obesity in the United States with State Legislation . Retrieved February 10, 2016, from www.rand.org:http://www.rand.org/pubs/rgs_dissertations/ RGSD324.html





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