Empowering women through health education is one of the six themes of this year’s International Women’s Day.
Women live longer than men all around the world - on average by six to eight years - but when it comes to life expectancy for women, the country you’re in can very much make a difference.
In February, a new report showed that life expectancy among women living in the poorest communities in England has declined since 2011.
The report, Health Equity In England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On, found that between 2010 and 2020, life expectancy for women in the UK had risen by about a third of a year from 82.83 to 83.18.
However, compared to other countries, the change is significantly less, with figures showing that life expectancy for women in Luxembourg had risen 1.57 years between 2011 and 2016, while in Japan it was up 1.28 years and New Zealand saw an increase of 1.17 years.
The decline in life expectancy of poorer women in the UK is worrying, but the age still compares favourably to global life expectancy for women, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) put at 74.2 for females in 2016.
However, it is nowhere near that high in some countries, with women in certain areas of the world likely to have a much shorter life expectancy.
A ranking from the UN Human Development Report for 2019, shared by Infoplease.com, puts Hong Kong at the top of the table with a life expectancy for women of 87.6, followed by Japan at 87.5 then Switzerland at 85.5.
Of the top 10 countries, four were in Europe and four were in Asia, while Israel was the only Middle Eastern country in the top 20. The UK ranked number 25 while the United States was 35.
The lowest countries on the ranking are all in Africa, with Central African Republic at the bottom with a life expectancy for women of 55 and of the bottom ten, only Cameroon had a female life expectancy above the age of 60 (60.2).
However, while HIV and AIDS could be part of the reason for such low life expectancy, of the bottom ten in the rankings only Lesotho has an HIV/AIDS rate above 10% and the life expectancy in those countries is believed to be low due to poor access to healthcare, especially for children and mothers.
According to the WHO website, the difference in overall life expectancy between women and men is partly due to an inherent biological advantage for women but also reflects behavioural differences between men and women.
“However, in some settings, notably in parts of Asia, these advantages are overridden by gender-based discrimination so that female life expectancy at birth is lower than or equal to that of males,” it says.
“Life expectancy for women also varies across regions and income levels of countries. For instance, life expectancy for women is more than 80 years in at least 35 countries. In the WHO African Region it was estimated at only 54 years and in some countries, particularly in East and Southern Africa, the lack of improvement in life expectancy is mainly due to HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality.