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Spanish women second longest-living in world

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Long life expectancy in Spain also places a burden on the country's social security system, especially given high rates of unemployment. Photo: Diego López Román
17:04 CEST+02:00
Spanish women are close to being world leaders in the longevity stakes, with only their Japanese counterparts living longer, new World Health Organization figures show.

Spanish women lived to an average ripe old age of 85.1 years in 2012, behind only the Japanese who live an average 87 years, the Who data released on Thursday shows.

While Spanish women share second place with similary healthy Singaporean and Swiss women, the country's menfolk don't make it into global the top ten.

That group had an average life expectancy of 79 in 2012, a little way behind world leaders Iceland (81.2), Switzerland (80.7) and Australia (80.5).

SEE ALSO: What do Spanish people die of

The strong figures for Spain come in the context of greater average longevity worldwide, according to the Who's World Health Statistics 2014.

Global averages show a girl who was born in 2012 can expect to live to around 73 years, and a boy to the age of 68. This is six years longer than the average global life expectancy for a child born in 1990.

"An important reason why global life expectancy has improved so much is that fewer children are dying before their fifth birthday,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Who Director-General on the data.

But Chan also pointed out there was still a major rich-poor divide: men and women still live less than 55 years in nine sub-Saharan African countries – Angola, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.  

In high-income countries, on the other hand, much of the gain in life expectancy was due to success in tackling noncommunicable diseases, said Dr Ties Boerma, Director of the Department of Health Statistics and Information Systems at WHO.

"Fewer men and women are dying before they get to their 60th birthday from heart disease and stroke. Richer countries have become better at monitoring and managing high blood pressure for example," Boerma said.

But the relative longevity of Spanish women and men is not all positive.

Spain's population shrunk in 2013 for the second year in a row and population projections suggest deaths will outweigh births by 2017.

The country also has a total fertility rate of just 1.48 children per woman, with economic woes playing a role in keeping this figure down, while level necessary to keep population stable in 2.1 children per women. 

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While high numbers of immigrants have kept Spain's population decline in check in recent years, the crisis has led to many of those people leaving.

In the medium to long term, the result could be a seriously aged population for the country.

Spain's low birthrate "puts the survival of the welfare state" at risk, said Salome Androher, the general director for family and childhood services at Spain's health ministry in 2013

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