The Countries Where People Live The Longest

Want a long life? Live like the Japanese. But even the world’s poorest countries are seeing big improvements in life expectancy.

Around the world, everyone is living longer, and some people are living a very long time indeed. A baby born in Liberia today will live, on average, 20 years longer than a baby born 25 years ago. Similarly, Ethiopians have seen a 19 year jump in life expectancy, from 45 to 64 years. Meanwhile, women in Japan can now expect to live to at least 87, the longest average lifetime of any people in any country.


These are some headlines from the latest World Health Organization statistics release, and they show a remarkable lengthening of lifespans, particularly in the developing world. The main reason: Improvements in post-natal care, which means more kids now reach their fifth birthday, which is the point at which kids tend to survive in greater numbers.

Still, there’s still a big divide between rich and poor countries. Boys from the developed world live on average 16 years longer than peers from low-income countries, WHO says. And the difference is even starker for girls: There’s a gap of 19 years from high-income to poor nations.

For women, the leading countries are Japan, followed by Spain, Switzerland, and Singapore. Among top-10 countries, the average is now 84 years. For men, who live shorter lives on average across the board, the best countries for aging are Iceland, Switzerland, and Australia.

In rich countries, the biggest reason for longer lives is better care of non-communicable diseases, like heart disease, and a decline in the number of people smoking. Infectious disease remains the biggest killer in poor countries, accounting for 70% of years of life lost, WHO says. While an Israeli man can expect to live into his eighties, someone from Chad, Mozambique, or Nigeria won’t make it beyond 55. There’s still a way to go before everyone lives the life they deserve.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.