Life Expectancy and the Way It Has Changed over Time


Even though mankind didn’t manage to find the Fountain of Youth or a cure for mortality yet, we are closer to these discoveries than any other generation before us. Life expectancy has changed dramatically in the past few centuries and, due to higher life standards, our planet is now facing an accelerated aging process, especially in the developed countries.

In other words, the global population is now at its absolute peak, counting for over 7.2 billion people and, according to a United Nations Report, it will exceed 9 billion people by 2050. Overpopulation is a worldwide concern if combined with an increased life expectancy.

Paradoxically, although there are more living people on this planet than ever, countries like Germany, France, Norway, Japan, and even the United States face an alarming aging phenomenon.

Life expectancy in history

Life expectancy at birth is influenced by many complicated factors and has increased or decreased depending on the era we are referring to. International organizations like the United Nations and national organizations claim that in the Iron Age and Bronze Age, life expectancy was around 26 years. By comparison, in 2010, the average global life expectancy at birth was approximately 67 years.

The LEB (life expectancy at birth) slightly increased in the Ancient times and reached 32-35 years in Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. However, LEB is influenced by infant mortality which was as high as 35-40% back in the days. In other words, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all people died in their 30s.

Statistics remained approximately the same up until the 1800s since we cannot talk about a dramatic increase in the quality of life. LEB in Europe in the 1800s was between 30 and 40 years, especially since we were talking about a reduced access to clean running water and personal hygiene products.

The Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800s had a huge impact on worldwide demographics and opened the door towards modern technologies that would ultimately improve life standards and positively affect longevity.


Factors that influence life expectancy

As we previously mentioned, there are countless factors that influence the quality of life that ultimately translates into more years spent on this Earth.

Access to personal hygiene products is a mandatory condition for people to grow healthy and develop in a stable environment. Up until the 20th century these products were considered a luxury, together with antibiotics.

Another factor that influences life expectancy is closely related to a proper hygiene, and that is disease. Before the worldwide spread of antibiotics and the eradication of various diseases such as cholera or plague, people died from a simple cold.