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We're all living six years longer

People around the world can expect to live an average six years longer today than they did in 1990, research has shown.

Global life expectancy at birth rose by 5.8 years for men and 6.6 for women between 1990 and 2013, according to new findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study.

Of all the regions in the world, southern Africa alone experienced the opposite trend due to the scourge of HIV/Aids. There, lifespans have shortened by more than five years.

But some low-income countries have made exceptional gains, experts found. In Nepal, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Niger, the Maldives, Timor-Leste and Iran, life expectancy increased by more than 12 years in the last two decades.

Men in the UK increased their life expectancy by the global average, with lifespan at birth increasing from 72.9 to 79.1 years between 1990 and 2013.

But UK women saw a below-average 4.4 year increase from 78.4 to 82.8 years.

Certain causes of death were shown to have claimed more lives around the world since 1990. They included liver cancer, heart rhythm disorders, drug use conditions, chronic kidney disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes and pancreatic cancer.

In high-income regions, life expectancy had mostly been increased by falling cancer and heart disease death rates, said the report.

Fewer deaths from diarrhoea, lung infections and baby disorders helped people to live longer in low-income countries.

Lead author Dr Christopher Murray, professor of global health at the University of Washington, US, said: " The progress we are seeing against a variety of illnesses and injuries is good, even remarkable, but we can and must do even better.

"The huge increase in collective action and funding given to the major infectious diseases such as diarrhoea, measles, tuberculosis, HIV/Aids, and malaria has had a real impact. However, this study shows that some major chronic diseases have been largely neglected but are rising in importance, particularly drug disorders, liver cirrhosis, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease."

The study, reported in The Lancet medical journal, cites war as being the leading cause of premature death in Syria, where an estimated 30,000 people died in 2013.

Heart disease, stroke, self-harm, cirrhosis and road injuries were responsible for half of all premature deaths in eastern Europe.

In India, death rates dropped by 1.3% per year for adults and 3.7% for children, but the country has a serious and growing suicide problem.

Road injuries and acts of violence were key contributors to premature death in Latin America and the Caribbean.

An analysis of the study by the Lancet found that Alzheimer's disease was now the third biggest killer in the UK, with rates increasing 50% between 1990 and 2013.

The leading killers in Britain, accounting for 35% of all deaths in 2013, were ischemic heart disease, which killed 98,746 people, stroke, which killed 57,146 and Alzheimer's disease, which caused 49,349 deaths.

But heart disease and stroke mortality rates have fallen in those 23 years, with 45% fewer deaths from the former and 25% fewer than the latter, the study found.

Dr Ivy Shiue, an epidemiology expert from Heriot-Watt University and a co-author of the study, said, "The decreasing toll posed by heart disease and stroke in the UK is quite encouraging.

"But the rise of Alzheimer's disease and certain cancers shows we must do more to combat these trends."

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