NEW DELHI: How long can an Indian expect to live on average? The answer varies very widely depending on where you live — which state and rural or urban area — and what your gender is. The average rural male in Chhattisgarh will live less than 63 years while the average urban female in Himachal Pradesh can hope to make it to nearly 81, a difference of 18 years.
overall life expectancy
at birth has gone up from 49.7 in 1970-75 to 69.4 by 2014-18, according to the latest Sample Registration System (SRS) life tables put out by
the Census and Registrar General
’s office. While the annual increase in life expectancy was 2-3 years between 1970 and 1990, the improvement has been a mere 0.4 years annually in the last decade.
An Indian’s life expectancy jumps by almost 3 years if s/he survives the first year of life, indicating just how
much infant mortality
is affecting the country’s life expectancy. Most Indians can expect to live more than 70 years if they survive the first year of life, except those in Chhattisgarh, Assam and Uttar Pradesh, where the average person who survives the first year lives till below 70.
The states where life expectancy goes up by more than three years if you survive the first year are also those with the highest infant mortality. In Uttar Pradesh, with the second highest infant mortality rate of 43, life expectancy jumps the highest, by 4.4 years, on completion of the first year. In Madhya Pradesh with the highest IMR of 48, a person surviving the first year after birth sees life expectancy increasing by 3.7 years.
At the other end of the age spectrum, in almost all states those who survive up to 70 years are likely to live beyond 80 years. But in Bihar and Chhattisgarh, life expectancy at 70 remains below another 10 years for both men and women.
Urban women have the highest life expectancy in India and in every state barring Kerala and Uttarakhand, where rural women live longer than their urban sisters though not by much. The 70-year-olds who are likely to live the longest are urban women in Jammu and Kashmir (86.2) followed by Punjab (85.4) and Himachal Pradesh (85.2).
Interestingly, within the same state, there could be a
in life expectancy. In Himachal, for instance, urban women on average live 80.6 years, which is 11.4 years more than rural men, who on average live till 69.2. Large intra-state gaps of about nine to 10 years are also seen between rural men and urban women in Assam and in Jammu and Kashmir.
In general, both globally and in India, women have higher life expectancy than men. But that’s not true in Bihar and Jharkhand, whether in rural or urban areas. The gap between the life expectancy of men and women is narrowest in Uttar Pradesh (less than one year) followed by Assam and West Bengal, where the gap is less than two years. The gap is highest in Himachal Pradesh, where women can expect to live over seven years more than men, followed by Uttarakhand and Kerala where they can live 6.4 and 5.4 years more than men.
Japan, with the highest life expectancy at birth (among large countries) of 84.5 reached India’s current level of life expectancy in 1960, or 60 years ago, and China reached this level in 1990 and is now at 76.7 years. What is even more sobering is the fact that Bangladesh and Nepal, which had lower life expectancy than India in 1980, have now pulled ahead with 72.1 and 70.5 respectively, according to the UN’s Human Development Report, 2019. Pakistan alone has a lower life expectancy of 67.1 in the region.