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Animation: Global Life Expectancy (1950-2021)

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Comparing global life expectancy over time

Animated Chart: Global Life Expectancy (1950-2021)

At a glance, life expectancy has been increasing worldwide over the last 70 years. But when you break it down by region and by sex, a clear yet variable gap in life expectancy emerges.

Using data from Our World in Data, these graphics by Pablo Alvarez provide both a breakdown of average life expectancies worldwide, as well as a more granular view that looks at the life expectancy of men and women across different continents.

Life Expectancy, by Continent and Sex

In the 1800s, the average life expectancy at birth was just 40 years.

Over the last 200 years, average life expectancies have nearly doubled, largely thanks to improvements in healthcare, sanitation, and global medical practices.

However, increases in life spans have not been consistent across the sexes—around the world, women now live 5.4 years longer than men do on average. And in certain parts of the world, this gap is even wider.

Comparing Life Expectancy men vs women across regions

For instance, in South America, the average life expectancy for women is seven years longer than it is for men.

Here is the continental breakdown, with data by continent for both male and females:

Life Expectancy by Region (2021)Life expectancy at birth, females (years)Life expectancy at birth, males (years)
Africa6460
Asia7570
Europe8174
North America8175
Oceania8277
South America7670
Global Average7468

What’s causing this discrepancy in life expectancy between men and women?

Theories to Explain the Gap

While scientists don’t know the exact reason for the gap in average life expectancy between sexes, research has put forward a few leading theories. They indicate that the gap is caused by a mix of biological and societal influences:

Biological Factors

According to Our World in Data, there are several genetic and hormonal differences between men and women that may impact longevity.

Because of higher estrogen levels and chromosomal differences, women tend to have more “subcutaneous fat” in their bodies, which is fat that’s carried directly under their skin.

In contrast, men tend to have more “visceral fat,” or fat that surrounds internal organs—which is linked to cardiovascular disease, making men more prone to health risks like heart attacks.

Societal Factors

There are also a number of societal factors that could be contributing to lower life expectancy levels for men.

According to Dr. Perminder Sachdev, a professor of neuropsychiatry who studied human longevity, men are “more likely to smoke, drink excessively, and be overweight.” Dr. Sachdev adds that men are also “less likely to seek medical help early, and, if diagnosed with a disease, they are more likely to be non-adherent to treatment.”

In addition to these aggravated health risks, research also indicates that men are more likely to die in car crashes and fights than women. Further, they tend to disproportionately work in dangerous professions, with men being 10 times more likely to be killed on the job than women.

What’s the biggest contributor of all these factors? It’s worth noting that none of these theories are mutually exclusive, meaning it’s likely a mixture of all of the above—however, the weighting of each factor is currently unknown.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Misc

Ranked: The Cities with the Most Skyscrapers in 2023

We rank the world’s leading cities with the most skyscrapers, highlighting China’s remarkable dominance in building vertically.

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Ranked: The Cities with the Most Skyscrapers in 2023

When it comes to soaring skylines and architectural marvels, no country has embraced the vertical revolution quite like China.

In this graphic, which uses data from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), we reveal the 25 cities with the most skyscrapers and supertall buildings globally.

Unsurprisingly, China’s cities dominate the list, solidifying the country’s reputation as a global powerhouse of tall buildings.

The 25 Top Cities by Skyscraper Count

Topping the charts is Hong Kong, with an impressive 657 skyscrapers, including six supertalls (buildings over 300 meters tall).

RankCityCountrySkyscrapers (>150m)Supertalls (>300m)
1Hong Kong🇨🇳 China6576
2Shenzhen🇨🇳 China51316
3New York City🇺🇸 United States42116
4Dubai🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates39528
5Guangzhou🇨🇳 China25411
6Shanghai🇨🇳 China2505
7Kuala Lumpur🇲🇾 Malaysia2115
8Chongqing🇨🇳 China2055
9Tokyo🇯🇵 Japan2000
10Wuhan🇨🇳 China1835
11Chicago🇺🇸 United States1787
12Jakarta🇮🇩 Indonesia1601
13Chengdu🇨🇳 China1500
14Bangkok🇹🇭 Thailand1333
15Shenyang🇨🇳 China1293
16Singapore🇸🇬 Singapore1280
17Nanning🇨🇳 China1226
18Mumbai🇮🇳 India1140
19Tianjin🇨🇳 China1093
20Nanjing🇨🇳 China1087
21Toronto🇨🇦 Canada1060
22Busan🇰🇷 South Korea1064
23Seoul🇰🇷 South Korea1042
24Changsha🇨🇳 China975
25Melbourne🇦🇺 Australia941

Hong Kong, along with Shenzhen (#2), and Guangzhou (#5) are part of the burgeoning megacity known as the Pearl River Delta, which is home to over 1,500 skyscrapers. This is even more impressive when considering that Shenzhen was a small fishing village until the 1970s.

New York City secures the third position on the list, boasting an impressive tally of 421 skyscrapers. Although it may have relinquished its title to Chinese cities, the city’s skyline endures as a globally renowned symbol, prominently featuring the iconic Empire State Building. Notably, while the Empire State Building enjoys widespread familiarity, it no longer ranks among the world’s 50 tallest structures.

Rounding out the top five is Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, which grabs the fourth position with 395 skyscrapers, a staggering 28 of which are supertalls. This desert oasis has become synonymous with grandiose architecture and record-breaking structures, exemplified by the Burj Khalifa, which is the world’s current tallest building at 828 meters (2,715 ft).

China’s Numbers in Context

Looking at this data from another perspective, China actually has more skyscrapers on this list than the rest of the world combined.

CountryCities in Top 25SkyscrapersSupertalls
🇨🇳 China12277772
🌐 Rest of World13235067

China’s rapid urbanization, economic growth, and ambitious construction projects have fueled this impressive feat. There’s no doubt that the country’s relentless pursuit of vertical development, coupled with its booming population and thriving cities, has positioned China as the unrivaled leader in the global skyscraper race.

The Future of the Global Skyline

As the world continues to reach new heights in architectural marvels, there are even more supertall skyscrapers in the pipeline that will reshape skylines across the globe.

From the soaring Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, poised to surpass the Burj Khalifa as the world’s tallest building, to the remarkable Merdeka 118 in Kuala Lumpur, which is set to claim the title of the world’s second-tallest structure when it opens in June 2023, these projects will captivate city dwellers for years to come.

Even as these new monumental buildings rise, China’s prominence in the world of skyscrapers—with three cities in the top five globally—is likely to remain unchallenged.

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