tile wisdomA well-known Dutch saying is: "Money does not make you happy". Most people would agree with that. However, you cannot turn the saying around: "If you are happy, you don't need money." You need money to eat, to live and to send your children to school. And if you are sick, you are happy to have some money to pay for medicine. 

One of the main reasons why people are living longer is the strong improvement in healthcare. The inventions of vaccines and antibiotics have significantly increased life expectancy. Life expectancy in the Netherlands in 1900 was 44 years, in 2000 it was 78 years. If this development continues, babies born in 2050 will have a life expectancy of more than 100 years.

Worldwide life expectancy (LE) is different:

LE Country   LE Country
89 Monaco   68 Myanmar, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Timor Leste
85 Japan, Macao, Singapore   67 Ghana, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu
83 Andorra, Hong Kong, Israel, San Marino, Iceland, Switzerland, South Korea   66 Yemen
82 Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Sweden   65 Cambodia, Comoros, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Laos, Sao Tome and Principe, Togo
81 Belgium, Cayman Islands, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, United Kingdom   64 Djibouti, Haïti, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Sudan, South Africa
80 Denmark, Taiwan, United States of America   63 Botswana, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mauritania, Tanzania, Western Sahara
79 Albania, Bahrain, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Panama, Portugal, Qatar   62 Benin, Malawi, Senegal
78 Dominican Republic, Falkland, Kuwait, Lebanon, New Caledonia, Poland, Saint Lucia, Slovenia, United Arab Emirates   61 Burundi, Guinea
77 Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Dominica, Ecuador, Estonia, Libya, Morocco, Paraguay, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Uruguay   60 Angola, Congo (People's Republic of), Mali, Zimbabwe
76 Barbados, China, Columbia, Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, Macedonia, Mauritius, Mexico, Oman, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, St Kitts and Nevis, Tonga, Tunisia, Venezuela   59 Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone

Armenia, Bulgaria, El Salvador, Grenada, Iraq, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Romania, Seychelles, Syria, Thailand, Turkey

  58 Congo (Democratic Republic of)
74 Brazil, Iran, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Peru, Samoa, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vietnam   56 Burkina Faso, Niger, Uganda
73 Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belarus, Egypt, Fiji, Greenland, Guatemala, Indonesia, Palau, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago   54 Mozambique, Nigeria
72 Cape Verde, Ukraine   53 Central African Republic, Lesotho, Somalia, Zambia
71 Bhutan, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Nepal, North Korea, Russia   52 Afghanistan, Gabon, Ngwane
70 Mongolia, Turkmenistan   51 Chad, Guinea-Bissau
69 Belize, Guyana, India, Philippines      

Inequalities in life expectancy occur not only between countries but also within countries. Poverty is the biggest risk factor for health. Rich people in the Netherlands live an average of 84.4 years. People who rely on food banks live to an average of 77.0 years. A difference of almost 7.5 years!

smilyEd van Dijk had a heavy job and was declared disabled for 40% because of his worn out back and joints. He is on welfare and is a diabetic. A nutritionist told him he should eat more fruit and vegetables, but he cannot afford to do so. Unhealthy food is simply much cheaper. A bag of cashews is twice as expensive as a bag of chips. Fruit and fish prices have risen much faster than sweets and ice cream over the past 20 years.

Ed has a rich friend. He goes to concerts and to the pub and he knows everyone in the village. Ed has been to the pub once in the past year and doesn't know anyone anymore. The loneliness eats away at him and he suffers from stress because of his deteriorating health. He gives his own life at best a meagre six (but actually less). His wealthy friend gives a mark that is more in line with the average of 7.5 that can be found in the World Happiness Report (2019). 


3) Medicine plays an important role in the increased life expectancy. But there are more factors. What other factors can you think of that contribute to life expectancy? Name at least two of them.
4) Because of the increase in prosperity, are there also factors that have a negative effect on life expectancy? What are they?
5) Look at the list of countries with life expectancies. What stands out most?
6) What relationship do you see between the list of countries with life expectancies and the World Happiness Report?