Life Expectancy has doubled in Every Country over the last 200 years

Global Development

Key Points

  • In the last 200 years, life expectancy has doubled in every country across the world.
  • Even the poorest countries in the world have life expectancies at least 10 years higher than the richest countries had two centuries ago.
  • Since the 1950s, there has been rapid convergence in life expectancies for the richest and poorest countries and now over 80% of the world’s population is expected to live over 65 years old.


Today, living standards are dramatically higher than ever before (see here and here) and this has led to a rapid improvement in life expectancies across the world. As can be seen in the chart below, in 1800 the richest countries in the world had life expectancies below 40 years and this has doubled to over 80 years today. While increases in life expectancies in the poorest countries have been smaller in absolute terms they have still doubled from around 25 years in 1800 to over 50 years today.

Life expectancies

In the last half a century there has been a significant convergence in life expectancies between the richest and poorest countries. Much of this advancement has been through improving the quality of life in poorer countries in the last 65 years. In 1950, life expectancies were twice as high in the richest countries in the world compared to the poorest countries. However, today the bottom 40% of the world’s population is expected to live around three-quarters as long as to top 10%. Even in today’s poorest countries, life expectancy is ten years higher than half of the world’s population in 1950 and the richest countries in the world in 1800.


Max Roser 2015 <>

Find Your Place in the Global Population Pyramid

Global Development

The World Bank along with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis operate an online portal where you can find your place in the Global Population Pyramid. For example, if you are Australian and today was your 30th Birthday, this interactive website would show you that while the majority of the world’s population are younger than you, 60% of Australians are older than you. To find out more check out the following video or the website for yourself.

This initiative highlights that the shape of a country’s population pyramid tends to correspond with their overall level of development. Typically high income countries, like Japan or Australia, have an aging population where the average person is well over 30. While most middle income countries, like China and India, are in the process of benefiting from a demographic dividend whereby the bulk of the population are of working age. Whereas in the average low income country, such as Uganda or Mozambique, the vast majority of people are below the age of 30. You can use the online portal to see how your place in the global population pyramid would vary if you had been born in a different country or time period.


The World Population Project 2015 <>