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Over time, life expectancy has increased, mostly as a result of advancements in medicine and improved access to healthcare. Compared to our ancestors who lived a century or more ago, people in the developed world have a far higher chance of living into old age. Despite the significant death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent study by researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) published in The Lancet reports that life expectancy has increased globally by 6.2 years since 1990.

Race and class continue to have an impact on life expectancy. Additionally, there are significant regional variations. Certain diseases may be more common in some areas due to their climate and lack of resources. Nevertheless, the study reports an overall positive outcome. The average lifespan in Sub-Saharan Africa increased by 10.7 years. Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Oceania all saw increases of 8.3 years. 7.8 years were added to life in South Asia, mostly as a result of lower deaths from diarrhoea illnesses. Of course, no evaluation of mortality would be complete without taking into account in great detail the enormous toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken in human life. According to the study's authors, the pandemic had the greatest detrimental effects on life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

The IHME released a statement stating that "[t]he leading causes of age-standardised deaths globally were the same in 1990 and 2019; these were lower respiratory infections, ischemic heart disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, in descending order. However, COVID-19 overtook stroke as the second most common age-standardised cause of death in 2021. Certain illnesses, such as malaria and diarrhoea are highly regionally concentrated. Global life expectancy data can help shape policy. According to the researchers, "studies of changing mortality trends show that several causes that were formerly commonplace worldwide are now becoming more and more concentrated geographically. These shifts in mortality concentration offer a significant chance to expand our knowledge of mortality-reduction tactics, along with additional research into evolving risks, interventions, and pertinent policy. 

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