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Stanford University School of Medicine

Reductions in child mortality have closed the global lifespan inequality gap

In the past, societies had significant "lifespan inequality gaps". Some people died at birth or during childhood, while others lived until they were 40, 50, or 60. But now, many more people can reasonably expect to live into their 70s or 80s, boosting the average lifespan.

In a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Stanford University researchers reveal an unexpected twist to that demographic tale. Senior author Shripad Tuljapurkar, PhD, a professor of biology, explains in a Stanford press release:

Our surprise finding is that the recent several decades long decline in inequality comes from reducing child mortality, whereas much increase in life expectancy comes from reducing cardiovascular deaths... That pattern shows up in many countries.

The researchers used a new method to calculate changes in lifespan inequality developed by lead author Benjamin Seligman, MD, who began the work as a medical student at Stanford and is now a resident at the University of California, Los Angeles. "By saving what were still many of thousands of lives from an early death and helping them live much longer, we made great improvements in equity," Seligman said.

In the video above, Tuljapurkar and co-author Gabi Greenberg, who recently completed her master's degree in statistics at Stanford, provide a clear explanation of the importance of this type of research. It's well worth a look.

Previously: Stanford humanties scholar examines "the youngest society on Earth", Working to improve the health of children in rural Guatemala and Biodesign trip high lights an innovative approach to Japan's aging crisis
Video by Kurt Hickman

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