Charted: Healthcare Spending and Life Expectancy, by Country
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Charted: Healthcare Spending and Life Expectancy, by Country

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Comparing Countries' Healthcare Spend to Their Average Life Expectancies

Charted: Healthcare Spending and Life Expectancy, by Country

Over the last century, life expectancy at birth has more than doubled across the globe, largely thanks to innovations and discoveries in various medical fields around sanitation, vaccines, and preventative healthcare.

Yet, while the average life expectancy for humans has increased significantly on a global scale, there’s still a noticeable gap in average life expectancies between different countries.

What’s the explanation for this divide? According to World Bank data compiled by Truman Du, it may be partially related to the amount of money a country spends on its healthcare.

More Spending Generally Means More Years

The latest available data from the World Bank includes both the healthcare spending per capita of 178 different countries and their average life expectancy.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the analysis found that countries that spent more on healthcare tended to have higher average life expectancies up until reaching the 80-year mark.

CountryHealth expenditure per capita (USD, 2019)Life expectancy at birth, total (years, 2020)
Japan$4,36085
Singapore$2,63384
Korea, Rep.$2,62583
Norway$8,00783
Australia$5,42783
Switzerland$9,66683
Iceland$6,27583
Israel$3,45683
Malta$2,53283
Sweden$5,67182
Italy$2,90682
Spain$2,71182
Ireland$5,42982
France$4,49282
Finland$4,45082
New Zealand$4,21182
Canada$5,04882
Luxembourg$6,22182
Denmark$6,00382
Netherlands$5,33581
Austria$5,24281
Cyprus$1,99681
Greece$1,50181
Portugal$2,22181
Germany$5,44081
United Kingdom$4,31381
Belgium$4,96081
Slovenia$2,21981
Costa Rica$92280
Qatar$1,80780
Chile$1,37680
Barbados$1,14379
Maldives$85479
Lebanon$66379
Cuba$1,03279
Panama$1,19379
Estonia$1,59978
Czech Republic$1,84478
United Arab Emirates$1,84378
Oman$62578
Uruguay$1,66178
Turkiye$39678
Croatia$1,04078
Bosnia and Herzegovina$55478
Colombia$49577
Bahrain$94077
Thailand$29677
United States$10,92177
Seychelles$84077
Ecuador$48677
Antigua and Barbuda$76077
Sri Lanka$16177
China$53577
Algeria$24877
Peru$37077
Morocco$17477
Tunisia$23377
Iran, Islamic Rep.$47077
Slovak Republic$1,34277
Argentina$94677
Poland$1,01477
St. Lucia$50276
Malaysia$43776
Brazil$85376
Brunei Darussalam$67276
Montenegro$73576
North Macedonia$43776
Hungary$1,06276
Kuwait$1,75976
Vietnam$18175
Honduras$18875
Latvia$1,16775
Saudi Arabia$1,31675
Armenia$52475
Mexico$54075
Lithuania$1,37075
Belize$29375
Nicaragua$16175
Jordan$33475
Jamaica$32775
Guatemala$27175
Paraguay$38874
Romania$73974
Dominican Republic$49174
Serbia$64174
Belarus$39974
Mauritius$68674
Bahamas$2,00574
Georgia$29174
Trinidad and Tobago$1,16874
Bulgaria$69874
El Salvador$30074
Samoa$27273
Cabo Verde$17873
Solomon Islands$11273
Azerbaijan$19373
Bangladesh$4673
St. Vincent and the Grenadines$35573
Grenada$53472
Egypt, Arab Rep.$15072
Bhutan$11672
Venezuela, RB$33972
Moldova$28472
Indonesia$12072
Uzbekistan$9972
Suriname$61972
Kyrgyz Republic$6272
Bolivia$24672
Kazakhstan$27371
Philippines$14271
Russian Federation$65371
Tajikistan$6271
Ukraine$24871
Nepal$5371
Tonga$24271
Iraq$25371
Vanuatu$10471
Sao Tome and Principe$10871
Mongolia$16370
Cambodia$11370
Guyana$32670
India$6470
Botswana$48270
Timor-Leste$9370
Rwanda$5169
Kiribati$17269
Turkmenistan$50068
Lao PDR$6868
Senegal$5968
Fiji$23668
Djibouti$6267
Pakistan$3967
Madagascar$2067
Myanmar$6067
Kenya$8367
Ethiopia$2767
Gabon$21567
Eritrea$2567
Tanzania$4066
Sudan$4766
Afghanistan$6665
Mauritania$5865
Congo, Rep.$4965
Papua New Guinea$6565
Malawi$3065
Comoros$7265
Liberia$5364
South Africa$54764
Ghana$7564
Haiti$5764
Zambia$6964
Namibia$42764
Uganda$3264
Niger$3163
Gambia, The$3062
Benin$2962
Burkina Faso$4262
Guinea$4362
Burundi$2162
Zimbabwe$10362
Angola$7161
Mozambique$3961
Togo$5161
Congo, Dem. Rep.$2161
Eswatini$26461
Mali$3460
Cameroon$5460
Equatorial Guinea$25559
Guinea-Bissau$6359
Cote d'Ivoire$7558
South Sudan$2358
Sierra Leone$4655
Nigeria$7155
Lesotho$12455
Chad$3055

However, there were a few slight exceptions. For instance, while the United States has the largest spending of any country included in the dataset, its average life expectancy of 77 years is lower than many other countries that spend far less per capita.

What’s going on in the United States? While there are several intermingling factors at play, some researchers believe a big contributor is the country’s higher infant mortality rate, along with its higher relative rate of violence among young adults.

On the other end of the spectrum, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea have the highest life expectancies on the list despite their relatively low spending per capita.

It’s worth mentioning that this wasn’t always the case—in the 1960s, Japan’s life expectancy was actually the lowest among the G7 countries, and South Korea’s was below 60 years, making it one of the top 30 countries by improved life expectancy:

countries with the greatest increase in life expectancy since 1960

View the full-size infographic

In fact, the last 60 years have seen many countries substantially increase their average life expectancies from the 30-40 year range to 70+ years. But as the header chart shows, there are still many countries lagging behind in Africa, Asia, and Oceania.

How High Can Average Life Expectancy Go?

Since people are living longer than they’ve ever lived before, how much higher will average life expectancies be in another 100 years?

Recent research published in Nature Communications suggests that, under the right circumstances, human beings have the potential to live up to 150 years.

Projections from the UN predict that growth will be divided, with developed countries seeing higher life expectancies than developing regions.

Estimated life expectancy in future

However, as seen in the above chart from the World Economic Forum and using UN data, it’s likely the gap between developed and developing countries will narrow over time.

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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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Science

Visualizing the Composition of Blood

Despite its simple appearance, blood is made up of many microscopic elements. This infographic visualizes the composition of blood.

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composition of blood

The Composition of Blood

Have you ever wondered what blood is made up of?

With the average adult possessing five to six liters of blood in the body, this fluid is vital to our lives, circulating oxygen through the body and serving many different functions.

Despite its simple, deep-red appearance, blood is comprised of many tiny chemical components. This infographic visualizes the composition of blood and the microscopic contents in it.

What is Blood Made Up Of?

There are two main components that comprise blood:

  • Plasma – 55%
    Plasma is the fluid or aqueous part of blood, making up more than half of blood content.
  • Formed elements – 45%
    Formed elements refer to the cells, platelets, and cell fragments that are suspended in the plasma.

Plasma

Plasma is primarily made up of water (91%), salts, and enzymes, but it also carries important proteins and components that serve many bodily functions.

Plasma proteins make up 7% of plasma contents and are created in the liver. These include:

  • Albumins
    These proteins keep fluids from leaking out of blood vessels into other parts of the body. They also transport important molecules like calcium and help neutralize toxins.
  • Globulins
    These play an important role in clotting blood and fighting infections and are also transporters of hormones, minerals, and fats.
  • Fibrinogen and Prothrombin
    Both of these proteins help stop bleeding by facilitating the creation of blood clots during wound-healing.

Water and proteins make up 98% of plasma in blood. The other 2% is made up of small traces of chemical byproducts and cellular waste, including electrolytes, glucose, and other nutrients.

Formed Elements

There are three categories of formed elements in blood: platelets, white blood cells, and red blood cells. Red blood cells make up 99% of formed elements, with the other 1% comprised of platelets and white blood cells.

  • Platelets (Thrombocytes)
    Platelets are cells from the immune system with the primary function of forming clots to reduce bleeding from wounds. This makes them critical not only for small wounds like cuts but also for surgeries and traumatic injuries.
  • White blood cells (Leukocytes)
    White blood cells protect our bodies from infection. There are five types of white blood cells with different roles in fighting infections: some attack foreign cells and viruses, some produce antibodies, some clean up dead cells, and some respond to allergens.
  • Red blood cells (Erythrocytes)
    Red blood cells deliver fresh oxygen and nutrients all over the body. They contain a special protein called hemoglobin, which carries oxygen and gives blood its bright red color.

The lifespan of a typical red blood cell is around 120 days, after which it dies and is replaced by a new cell. Our bodies are constantly producing red blood cells in the bone marrow, at a rate of millions of cells per second.

Abnormal Red Blood Cells

Normal red blood cells are round, flattened disks that are thinner in the middle. However, certain diseases and medical therapies can change the shape of red blood cells in different ways.

Here are the types of abnormal red blood cells and their associated diseases:

composition of blood

Sickle cell anemia is a well-known disease that affects the shape of red blood cells. Unlike normal, round red blood cells, cells associated with sickle cell disease are crescent- or sickle-shaped, which can slow and block blood flow.

Other common causes of abnormally shaped red blood cells are thalassemia, hereditary blood disorders, iron deficiency anemia, and liver disease. Identifying abnormal blood cells plays an important role in diagnosing the underlying causes and in finding treatments.

The Functions of Blood

We know that blood is vital, but what does it actually do in the body?

For starters, here are some of the functions of blood:

  • Blood transports oxygen to different parts of the body, providing an energy source. It also delivers carbon dioxide to the lungs for exhalation.
  • The platelets, white blood cells, and plasma proteins in blood play an important role in fighting infections and clotting.
  • Blood transports the body’s waste products to the kidneys and liver, which filter it and recirculate clean blood.
  • Blood helps regulate the body’s internal temperature by absorbing and distributing heat throughout the body.

While we all know that we can’t live without blood, it serves many different functions in the body that we often don’t notice. For humans and many other organisms alike, blood is an integral component that keeps us alive and going.

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Science

Visualizing the Relationship Between Cancer and Lifespan

New research links mutation rates and lifespan. We visualize the data supporting this new framework for understanding cancer.

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Cancer and lifespan

A Newfound Link Between Cancer and Aging?

A new study in 2022 reveals a thought-provoking relationship between how long animals live and how quickly their genetic codes mutate.

Cancer is a product of time and mutations, and so researchers investigated its onset and impact within 16 unique mammals. A new perspective on DNA mutation broadens our understanding of aging and cancer development—and how we might be able to control it.

Mutations, Aging, and Cancer: A Primer

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells. It is not a pathogen that infects the body, but a normal body process gone wrong.

Cells divide and multiply in our bodies all the time. Sometimes, during DNA replication, tiny mistakes (called mutations) appear randomly within the genetic code. Our bodies have mechanisms to correct these errors, and for much of our youth we remain strong and healthy as a result of these corrective measures.

However, these protections weaken as we age. Developing cancer becomes more likely as mutations slip past our defenses and continue to multiply. The longer we live, the more mutations we carry, and the likelihood of them manifesting into cancer increases.

A Biological Conundrum

Since mutations can occur randomly, biologists expect larger lifeforms (those with more cells) to have greater chances of developing cancer than smaller lifeforms.

Strangely, no association exists.

It is one of biology’s biggest mysteries as to why massive creatures like whales or elephants rarely seem to experience cancer. This is called Peto’s Paradox. Even stranger: some smaller creatures, like the naked mole rat, are completely resistant to cancer.

This phenomenon motivates researchers to look into the genetics of naked mole rats and whales. And while we’ve discovered that special genetic bonuses (like extra tumor-suppressing genes) benefit these creatures, a pattern for cancer rates across all other species is still poorly understood.

Cancer May Be Closely Associated with Lifespan

Researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute report the first study to look at how mutation rates compare with animal lifespans.

Mutation rates are simply the speed at which species beget mutations. Mammals with shorter lifespans have average mutation rates that are very fast. A mouse undergoes nearly 800 mutations in each of its four short years on Earth. Mammals with longer lifespans have average mutation rates that are much slower. In humans (average lifespan of roughly 84 years), it comes to fewer than 50 mutations per year.

The study also compares the number of mutations at time of death with other traits, like body mass and lifespan. For example, a giraffe has roughly 40,000 times more cells than a mouse. Or a human lives 90 times longer than a mouse. What surprised researchers was that the number of mutations at time of death differed only by a factor of three.

Such small differentiation suggests there may be a total number of mutations a species can collect before it dies. Since the mammals reached this number at different speeds, finding ways to control the rate of mutations may help stall cancer development, set back aging, and prolong life.

The Future of Cancer Research

The findings in this study ignite new questions for understanding cancer.

Confirming that mutation rate and lifespan are strongly correlated needs comparison to lifeforms beyond mammals, like fishes, birds, and even plants.

It will also be necessary to understand what factors control mutation rates. The answer to this likely lies within the complexities of DNA. Geneticists and oncologists are continuing to investigate genetic curiosities like tumor-suppressing genes and how they might impact mutation rates.

Aging is likely to be a confluence of many issues, like epigenetic changes or telomere shortening, but if mutations are involved then there may be hopes of slowing genetic damage—or even reversing it.

While just a first step, linking mutation rates to lifespan is a reframing of our understanding of cancer development, and it may open doors to new strategies and therapies for treating cancer or taming the number of health-related concerns that come with aging.

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