French life expectancy tops 80 years

24th March 2005, Comments 1 comment

PARIS, March 24 (AFP) - By passing the 80 year mark for the first time ever, France now has the second highest life expectancy in the world after Japan - according to a study released Thursday - but the steady ageing of the population will have huge repercussions in the future.

PARIS, March 24 (AFP) - By passing the 80 year mark for the first time ever, France now has the second highest life expectancy in the world after Japan - according to a study released Thursday - but the steady ageing of the population will have huge repercussions in the future.

The 2004 annual report from the National Institute for Demographic Studies(INED) found that French women can now expect to live for 83.8 years and men for 76.7 years - an average of more than 80 years for the first time in history.

A woman born today in France has a one in two chance of living beyond 94 years of age, and 16 percent of them will reach 100, the report said.

Only in Japan with an expectancy of 82 - 85 for women and 77 for men - do people live longer. In Europe, France leads the table ahead of Spain on 79.5 years - according to the World Health Organisation - followed by Italy and Britain. The US average is 77.2 years.

France's progress follows 60 years of steadily rising life expectancy, but the increase of the past two years has been unexpectedly fast, INED found.

In 1950 French people lived an average of 66 years, and in 1980 the figure had risen to 74 years. In 2003 expectancy rates were affected by a summer heatwave, which is estimated to have killed 15,000 old people, and hit 82.9 for women and 75.9 for men.

"But if we compare the results with 2002 we find that life expectancy has gone up by ten months in two years. That is far faster than the rate recorded over the last half century," the report said.

The improvement was due to advances in the fight against cancer and heart disease, more extensive screening against diseases, and lower rates of smoking and alcoholism - particularly among men, INED said.

But the 2003 heatwave also had an effect in boosting the figures, by encouraging greater awareness of the health problems of old people living alone, the health ministry said.

French newspapers Thursday celebrated the breakthrough past the symbolic 80 mark, but many also warned that the growing demographic age-bulge will bring awkward social and economic costs.

As in the whole of Europe the proportion of people over the age of 65 is growing by comparison with the economically active part of the population, producing growing strains on pensions and health care.

"Today we have to work longer before we can retire while at the same time there is less and less work. This insoluble equation risks knocking a lot of people off their feet," said the left-wing Liberation newspaper.

"It may not be long before the traditional school students' protests - today's rite of passage into active life - are replaced by pensioners' protests - a rite of passage into retirement."

However with a birth rate of 1.9 per woman, France is better positioned than many of its neighbours to cope with the imbalance.

According to EU figures, of the ten countries in the world with the lowest birth rates three are EU members - the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia - while Italy, Spain, Germany and Poland all have a fertility rate of less than 1.3 children per woman.

The level needed to replace the population is 2.1 children per woman.

The population of France excluding overseas territories was 60.6 million in 2004, according to INED, and the annual increase of 361,000 was the biggest recorded in 30 years.

Two thirds of the population growth was from births and a third from immigration.

© AFP

Subject: French News

1 Comment To This Article

  • Chris posted:

    on 14th August 2014, 12:30:48 - Reply

    Hard to imagine this as a visitor with the prevalence of smoking in Paris.