The Best and Worst Countries in Terms of Life Expectancy

Simply put, life expectancy is the average period of time that a person may expect to live.

While the concept may be familiar and seemingly simple, the nuances of its calculation are far from it. Life expectancy is actually a statistical measure of how long a person may live based on a multitude of demographic factors like the year they were born, their current age, and even their sex. While in mathematical terms life expectancy refers to the expected number of years of life remaining for an individual at any given age, expectancy estimates are often given as life expectancy at birth.

Boy looking at a world map poster
Annette Bunch / Moment / Getty Images

Life Expectancy Comparisons

Life expectancy figures are perhaps most interesting in relative terms. We might consider how life expectancy has changed over the years or how life expectancies differ between the sexes. Perhaps we are more interested in the differences in life expectancy estimates in different regions or countries, which is where global life expectancies come in.

Here we will look at the trends in life expectancy in countries with the best (highest) and worst (lowest) life expectancies over the last ten years.

Top 10 Countries With Best Life Expectancy: Then and Now

Let's see how global life expectancy figures by country have changed in the years since 2006.

2006 Top Ten
Rank Country Overall Life Expectancy (in years)
1 Andorra 83.51
2 Macau 82.19
3 San Marino 81.71
4 Singapore 81.81
5 Hong Kong 81.59
6 Japan 81.25
7 Sweden 80.51
8 Switzerland 80.51
9 Australia 80.50
10 Guernsey 80.42

2017 showed an overall increase in life expectancy and some new countries making the list.

2015 Top Ten    
Rank Country Overall Life Expectancy (in years)
1 Monaco 89.40
2 Japan 85.30
3 Singapore 85.20
4 Macau 84.60
5 San Marino 83.30
6 Iceland 83.10
7 Hong Kong 83.00
8 Andorra 82.90
9 Switzerland 82.60
10 Guernsey 82.60

Bottom 10 Countries With Worst Life Expectancy: Then and Now

While the countries with the best life expectancies have seen an overall increase in their numbers, so too have the countries with the worst life expectancies.

Here are the bottom ten countries with the shortest life expectancies in 2006 and as of 2017.

2006 Bottom Ten
Rank Country Overall Life Expectancy (in years)
1 Swaziland 32.63
2 Botswana 33.74
3 Lesotho 34.40
4 Zimbabwe 39.29
5 Liberia 39.65
6 Mozambique 39.82
7 Zambia 40.03
8 Sierra Leone 40.22
9 Malawi 41.70
10 South Africa 42.73

Again, 2017 saw new countries make the list.

2015 Bottom Ten    
Rank Country Overall Life Expectancy (in Years)
1 Chad 50.60
2 Guinea-Bissau 51.00
3 Gabon 52.10
4 Swaziland 52.10
5 Zambia 52.70
6 Somalia 52.80
7 Central African Republic 52.80
8 Lesotho 53.00
9 Mozambique 53.70
10 Nigeria 53.80

Life Expectancies of Other Countries of Interest

Many are surprised by the major countries that don't make the top ten list in terms of highest life expectancies.

Here are the life expectancy numbers for some of those notable countries that didn't make the top ten.

Other Major Countries    
Country Overall Life Expectancy (2006) Overall Life Expectancy (2017)
Canada 80.22 81.90
Italy 79.81 82.30
France 79.73 81.90
Germany 78.80 80.80
United Kingdom 78.54 80.80
United States 77.85 80.00
Mexico 75.41 76.10
China 72.58 75.70
Iraq 69.08 74.90
Russia 67.08 71.00
1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook.

By Mark Stibich, PhD
Mark Stibich, PhD, FIDSA, is a behavior change expert with experience helping individuals make lasting lifestyle improvements.