John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
If you want your newborn to live a long life, try traveling to Europe.
What's the best nation in the world to live in if you enjoy, ya know, staying alive?
That would be Monaco, where a person born in 2013 can expect to live on average up to age 90. Conversely, the worst place to be born last year in terms of suffering an early death is Chad, where the typical life stops a year before one's 50th birthday.
These insights are crammed with dozens of others into "Life Expectancy at Birth," a fascinating new visualization from data artist Marcelo Duhalde. The Oman-based Duhalde has taken information from the CIA's World Factbook and the Encyclopedia Britannica and used it to chart expected lifespans for the various countries of the world. Each continent gets its own reckoning, and each nation's timeline stretches on for a representative length before cascading into a black abyss, perhaps representing death.
The sprawling graphic includes the average "number of years to be lived by a group of people born [in 2013] if mortality at each age remains constant in the future," the designer writes. The big winners appear to be Europe and Asia, where many countries have expectancies of nine decades: newborns can bet on living into their early 80s in Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Sweden, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and a few other places. The Americas skew toward the 70s (the United States is 79, falling behind six other places like the Cayman Islands and Canada), whereas Africa is laden with nations in the 50s and 60s, including Uganda (54), Somalia (51), and South Africa (49).
Duhalde doesn't give any indication of why predicted lifespans vary so greatly across the world; people who study the issue will no doubt point at things like infant mortality, epidemics, war, poverty, diet, and equal opportunities. He simply presents the data in a catchy fashion, such as this breakdown for Europe:
And this one for the Americas:
Travel down to the bottom of the visualization for a couple more factoids. There's the average expectancy for six continents (Europe comes in at 78, Africa at 60) and also a nifty timeline of how expected lifespans have changed since roughly 20,000 B.C. Putting aside the excitement of grinding your own stone killing axes, living in the Neolithic Era would've stunk: Lives there tended to end rather quickly at age 20.