86.8 years is the highest life expectancy in the world for women. Unfortunately, it does not concern Africa. It is a figure from Japan. From 50.8 years in Sierra Leone to 78.6 years in Algeria. This is the range of life expectancy for women in Africa.
For years, this figure has been constantly increasing. It also raises questions that are important to clarify.
1-The reasons for this definite increase
Life expectancy is increasing in Africa. Both men and women are living longer. Contrary to popular belief, Africa is also aging. According to the AfDB website, the number of people over the age of 65 increased from 3.3 percent in 2000 to 3.6 percent in 2010.
Most of these older people are women. The growth trend has been going on for about 40 years. The trend is likely to accelerate in the coming years. By 2030, seniors could account for about 4.5 per cent of the population. It is predicted that by 2050 they will catch up with the proportion in industrialized countries.
However, it is important to note that many African countries are unfortunately not prepared. The main issue is health care for the elderly and pensions. Unlike many developed countries, African nations are generally not particularly well equipped to deal with the increasing number of elderly people. They tend to pay their hospital and medical bills directly.
2-Life expectancy higher for women than for men
These issues, which it was important for us to highlight, concern women more. Indeed, if women age more than men. The reasons are not yet known with certainty. A recent study, directed by Jean-François Lemaître, from the University Claude Bernard Lyon 1, in France, provides new insights on the subject.
The paper was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. First, the article confirmed that this is a constant in all mammals.
The study looked at populations of 101 species. The observation revealed that once they reached maturity, females had a life expectancy 11 percent longer than males.
The team’s observations also challenged some pre-existing theories. For example, the theory that mitochondria are more adapted to females. Since, let’s remind it, it is the mother who bequeaths her mitochondria to her offspring.
A function of natural selection would have adjusted the mitochondria to the female metabolism, to the detriment of the males. There are other similar theories.
These theories are valid, however, they obviously do not explain the gap between the life expectancy of males and females.
If they justified the difference in longevity, we would not observe such a high diversity between species as that observed during this research. In some species the difference is almost zero, in others it is around 60 percent.
The article concludes that this difference is due to several factors. The high life expectancy in women is therefore due to both environment and genetics. Moreover, it is known that a high level of testosterone harms the immune system.
3-A higher life expectancy but…
Despite the higher life expectancy of women, they
are subject to other annoyances. Women have higher morbidity and use health services more often than men. In Africa, the health system does not guarantee the integrity of women. Even today, non-communicable diseases are a major cause of death for women. Women are depressed more often than men.
Young women represent the majority of people living with HIV. Reproductive issues are, even today, evils to be fought with all our strength. During her lifetime, one out of three women in the world is likely to experience physical and/or sexual violence. As in all areas related to health and growth in Africa, there is still much to be done.