Women now live to an average of 86 in Spain – an increase of two years and seven-and-a-half months since the year 2002 – and men live to 80 years and five months, an increase of four years and two-and-a-half months in that time.
Overall, life expectancy in Spain has risen by three-and-a-half years, and is expected to be just short of 86 or even 87 years and five months within the next two decades, depending upon which study is most accurate and to what extent the main causes of non-accidental death from anything other than old age can be reduced.
A breakdown by gender is not given for Spain’s forecast life expectancy by the year 2040, but given the typical difference of around five-and-a-half years between them, it could be that Spanish women will be living to an average of 90 or more within the next 20 years.
According to the most recent study on life expectancy by the University of Washington State, in Seattle, aside from old age, accidents or violent crime, the top 10 causes of death in the first world are ischaemic heart failure – where the arteries narrow, preventing blood from pumping – Alzheimer’s, lung cancer, strokes (both ischaemic, or a reduction in blood flow to the brain, and haemorrhagic, or an excessive bleed on the brain), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), often referred to as being ‘broken-winded’, bowel and colon cancer, breast cancer, suicide, and other cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, in that order.
Breast cancer is currently cured in full in nearly 90% of cases, bowel cancer can be prevented through screening and 90% of diagnosed cases are cured, lung cancer at present has a very high mortality rate due to being asymptomatic until a late stage, Alzheimer’s – age-related non-vascular dementia, rather than early-onset Alzheimer’s – is on the rise due to people living longer, and suicide is the cause of more deaths in Spain than traffic accidents.
The main cause of non-accidental, non-violent and non-age related deaths, by the year 2040, is predicted to be Alzheimer’s, followed by ischaemic heart failure, lung cancer, COPD, bowel and colon cancer, strokes, chronic kidney disease, other cardiovascular diseases, pancreatic cancer, and diabetes.
It is likely, however, that concerted efforts by health services in the first world will help reduce many of these where lifestyle is the key factor – such as by tackling obesity, alcohol and cigarette consumption and air-pollution, battling against and trying to prevent conditions like Type II diabetes and high blood pressure in cases where these elements are the main causes.
The Washington State University research also cites influences such as access to and quality of national healthcare, income per head and education levels – in the case of the latter two, the higher these are, the longer a person is likely to live.
But rising life expectancy is also affected by lower infant mortality – and this has reduced dramatically since around 1970, according to a recent report by the national health authority.
Men in all countries and cultures typically live shorter lives than women, says the ministry of health – partly due to genetic makeup, and partly because men have a greater risk of cardiovascular diseases, are more inclined to smoke, drink alcohol, overeat or eat an unhealthy diet, and are naturally predisposed to greater risk-taking than women, an attitude that is thought to have its roots in the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation (EEA), between three million and 10,000 years ago.
And although women are more likely to attempt suicide than men, those who are successful are more likely to be male, with the highest risk group being the under-45s.
Whilst women live on average five years, seven months and one week longer than men, the ‘gender life expectancy gap’ has been closing since around 1992, says the health authority – partly because of women being more likely to go out to work and to be financially independent, which increases their stress levels and money worries and means they are more likely to drive or use public transport rather than being at home all day except for short walks to shops or schools, and partly because alcohol consumption and smoking in women has risen since, decades ago, both behaviours were standard in men but frowned upon in women.
Life expectancy in Spain differs by location – not great, but by at least two to four years on average.
No qualitative information has been given on why, and the regions with the highest and lowest life expectancies do not appear to have a great deal in common, except for the fact that the former is mainly farther north than the latter.
Madrid’s life expectancy is the highest at an average of just over 85, independently of gender, followed by Castilla y León (84 years and two-and-a-half months); Navarra (84.13 years); La Rioja (84.01 years); the Basque Country (84 years); Catalunya (83.64 years); Cantabria (83.63 years); Aragón (83-and-a-half); Galicia (83 years and five months); Castilla-La Mancha (83 years and two-and-a-half months); the Balearic Islands (83 years and one-and-a-half months), and the Canary Islands (83 years).
The lowest life expectancy in Spain as a State is in the autonomously-governed enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the northern Moroccan coast (80 years and eight months), whilst on the mainland, the lowest life expectancy is in the southern region of Andalucía, at 82 and one month.
It is followed by the land-locked western region of Extremadura, which borders Portugal, at 82.42 years; Murcia, at 82.61 years; the Comunidad Valenciana at 82.81 years, and Asturias at 82.84 years.
But even the lowest life expectancies in Spain are higher than the world average – the current 83 years nationally is roughly a decade more than the typical figure for the 195 countries for which life expectancy is counted.
The world average of 73 is not greatly skewed by third-world countries or war zones – as a guide, the USA is currently 43rd in the world with a life expectancy of 78 years, eight-and-a-half months, and is expected to fall to 64th out of 195 by the year 2040.
Last year, Spain was second in Europe, top in the EU and fourth in the world for the highest life expectancy – beaten only by Japan, at the head of the list, Switzerland, and Singapore.
But this year, Spain has leapfrogged Singapore and is only beaten by Switzerland and Japan, which remains the country where people live the longest.
It could be that Spain’s life expectancy is even higher than the 83.3 years revealed this autumn, given that the figures the national health authority used for its calculations are from the year 2017.
The photograph shows Ana María Vela Rubio who, just before her death on December 15, 2017, aged 116 years and 47 days, was the oldest woman in Spain and in Europe, and the third-oldest woman – and person – in the world.
For a short time, Europe’s oldest woman and man were both Spanish and alive at the same time – Francisco Núñez Olivera, from Extremadura, passed away at the end of January 2018 just a month and a half after turning 113, at a time when he was also the oldest man in the world.