Baby ‘boom’ and ‘bust’: Na­tions’ birthrates dif­fer sig­nif­i­cantly

IHME to com­pile de­tailed looks at global pub­lic health

The Korea Times - - FEATURE - PARIS (AFP)

— Soar­ing birth rates in de­vel­op­ing na­tions are fu­el­ing a global baby boom while women in dozens of richer coun­tries aren’t pro­duc­ing enough chil­dren to main­tain pop­u­la­tion lev­els there, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures re­leased Fri­day.

A global over­view of birth, death and dis­ease rates eval­u­at­ing thou­sands of datasets on a coun­try-by-coun­try ba­sis also found that heart dis­ease was now the sin­gle lead­ing cause of death world­wide.

The In­sti­tute for Health Met­rics and Eval­u­a­tion (IHME), set up at the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion, used more than 8,000 data sources — more than 600 of them new — to com­pile one of the most de­tailed looks at global pub­lic health.

Their sources in­cluded in-coun­try in­ves­ti­ga­tions, so­cial me­dia and open-source ma­te­rial.

It found that while the world’s pop­u­la­tion sky­rock­eted from 2.6 bil­lion in 1950 to 7.6 bil­lion last year, that growth was deeply un­even ac­cord­ing to re­gion and in­come.

Ninety-one na­tions, mainly in Eu­rope and North and South Amer­ica, weren’t pro­duc­ing enough chil­dren to sus­tain their cur­rent pop­u­la­tions, ac­cord­ing to the IHME study.

But in Africa and Asia fer­til­ity rates con­tin­ued to grow, with the aver­age woman in Niger giv­ing birth to seven chil­dren dur­ing her life­time.

Ali Mok­dad, pro­fes­sor of Health Met­rics Sciences at IHME, told AFP that the sin­gle most im­por­tant fac­tor in de­ter­min­ing pop­u­la­tion growth was ed­u­ca­tion.

“It is down to so­cioe­co­nomic fac- tors but it’s a func­tion of a woman’s ed­u­ca­tion,” he said. “The more a woman is ed­u­cated, she is spend­ing more years in school, she is de­lay­ing her preg­nan­cies and so will have fewer ba­bies.”

The IHME found that Cyprus was the least fer­tile na­tion on Earth, with the aver­age woman giv­ing birth just once in her life.

By con­trast, women in Mali, Chad and Afghanistan have on aver­age more than six ba­bies.

‘Less mor­tal­ity, more dis­abil­ity’

The United Na­tions pre­dicts there will be more than 10 bil­lion hu­mans on the planet by the mid­dle of the cen­tury, broadly in line with IHME’s pro­jec­tion.

This raises the ques­tion of how many peo­ple our world can sup­port, known as Earth’s “car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity.”

Mok­dad said that while pop­u­la­tions in de­vel­op­ing na­tions con­tinue to rise, so in gen­eral are their economies grow­ing.

This typ­i­cally has a knock-on ef­fect on fer­til­ity rates over time.

“In Asia and Africa the pop­u­la­tion is still in­creas­ing and peo­ple are mov­ing from poverty to bet­ter in­come — un­less there are wars or un­rest,” he said.

“Coun­tries are ex­pected to fare bet­ter eco­nom­i­cally and it’s more likely that fer­til­ity there will de­cline and level out.”

Not only are there now bil­lions more of us than 70 years ago, but we are also liv­ing longer than ever be­fore.

The study, pub­lished in The Lancet med­i­cal jour­nal, showed male life ex­pectancy had in­creased to 71 years from 48 in 1950. Women are now ex­pected to live to 76, com­pared with 53 in 1950.

Liv­ing longer brings its own health prob­lems, as we age and de­te­ri­o­rate and place greater bur­dens on our health­care sys­tems.

The IHME said heart dis­ease was now the lead­ing cause of death glob­ally. As re­cently as 1990, neona­tal dis­or­ders were the big­gest killer, fol­lowed by lung dis­ease and di­ar­rhoea.

Uzbek­istan, Ukraine and Azer­bai­jan had the high­est death rates from heart dis­ease, where as South Korea, Ja­pan and France had among the low­est.

“You see less mor­tal­ity from in­fec­tious dis­eases as coun­tries get richer, but also more dis­abil­ity as peo­ple are liv­ing longer,” said Mok­dad.

He pointed out that al­though deaths from in­fec­tious dis­eases like malaria and tu­ber­cu­lo­sis are down sig­nif­i­cantly since 1990, new, non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble killers have taken their place.

“There are cer­tain be­hav­iors that are lead­ing to an in­crease in car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases and cancer. Obe­sity is num­ber one — it is in­creas­ing ev­ery year and our be­hav­ior is con­tribut­ing to that.”

AFP-Yon­hap

In Africa and Asia, fer­til­ity rates con­tinue to grow while Eu­rope and North and South Amer­ica are not pro­duc­ing enough chil­dren to sus­tain their cur­rent pop­u­la­tions.

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