SINGAPORE — Singaporeans have the world’s longest life expectancy in 2017 with an expected lifespan at birth of 84.8 years, surpassing Japan (84.1 years) whose citizens traditionally live the longest.
The average Singaporean is also expected to live 74.2 years in good health, topping a list of 39 locations, according to The Burden of Disease in Singapore 1990 to 2017 report.
The life expectancy for females in Singapore was the highest at 87.6 years while their male counterparts came in second at 81.9 years, behind Switzerland at 82.1 years.
Singapore topped the lists for healthy life expectancy for males and females at 72.6 years and 75.8 years, respectively.
The Ministry of Health oversaw the study published in April and completed in collaboration with the US-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation.
The life expectancy figures were a significant improvement from that in 1990, when Singaporeans had an expected lifespan of 76.1 years and were projected to live 67.1 years in good health.
But the average Singaporean would live 10.6 years in ill health as at 2017, about 1.5 years longer than they did in 1990.
The study noted that while premature deaths in Singapore - measured in years of life lost or YLLs - have declined, the rates at which Singaporeans experience ill health - measured in years lived with disability or YLDs - have remained relatively constant over time.
This is an indication that Singapore - like most places in the world - has not been as successful at preventing ill health as it has been in preventing early death, it added.
Leading causes of early death
The top four contributors to Singapore’s combined burden of early death and disability - measured in disability-adjusted life years or DALYs - were cardiovascular diseases, cancers, musculoskeletal disorders, and mental disorders.
The causes of DALYs that rose the most between 1990 and 2017 were sense organ diseases, including hearing loss and vision impairments; neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias; and musculoskeletal disorders.
All of these increases were due mainly to Singapore’s ageing population, said the study.
Diabetes also represents an important challenge for Singapore. “While the country has succeeded in reducing the loss of life from causes like diabetes, its success in increasing healthy life expectancies will depend on its ability to reduce the chronic, non-fatal health problems they cause,” the report added.
Over the period, overweight and obesity rose from Singapore’s eighth leading risk factor to fifth.
The top three causes for premature deaths in Singapore in 2017 accounted for about 70 per cent of such deaths.
These are cancers (31.8 per cent), cardiovascular diseases (28.5 per cent), and lower respiratory infections, which includes pneumonia (10.1 per cent).
The four leading causes of years living with disability in Singapore changed “relatively little over time”: musculoskeletal disorders, mental disorders, unintentional injuries, and neurological disorders.
The report findings showed that mental disorders represented the largest single contributor to disease burden for Singaporeans between the ages of 10 and 34, peaking for 15- to 19-year-olds, accounting for a quarter of total DALYs.
The study also found that self-harm and interpersonal violence “disproportionately” affect young adults in Singapore.
While they make up only 5.6 per cent of total premature deaths for 2017, it accounted for 32.9 per cent of total premature deaths for those aged between 20 and 24.
“Going forward, Singapore’s primary challenges will be how to continue increasing life expectancy while also making progress in further reducing the burden of disability and enhancing the abilities of its health system to care for its ageing population,” the report said.
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