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Life expectancy can decline if the level of poverty increases or if a country experiences a social upheaval. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia experienced a decline in its life expectancy, especially among men. In 1990 life expectancy for Russian men was 64 years, by 2000 it had fallen to 59 years; today it is 61 years. By contrast, the life expectancy for Russian women is 74 years. The social and economic trauma of Russia’s reforms, as well as high rates of alcoholism among men, help account for these differences. Globally, the impact of HIV/AIDS on life expectancies varies. In wealthier countries, better access to medical care and pharmaceuticals has helped bring life expectancies of persons living with HIV/AIDS close to normal. Elsewhere, however, HIV/AIDS has reduced life expectancies by as much as 20 years. Lesotho and Botswana, southern African countries, have life expectancies of 40 and 49 years, respectively. (See Video Explorations.) The second key measure that indicates the quality of life in a particular population is the infant mortality rate—the number of deaths of infants under one year of

Although poorer countries often have high death rates, having a high death rate does not necessarily mean that a country is less developed. A country that has a high proportion of elderly people will, typically, have a high death rate regardless of the country’s wealth. For example, Denmark has a much higher proportion of elderly people than Honduras and its death rate is 10, whereas the death rate in Honduras is 5. Thus, we should remember that the death rate cannot tell us about the quality of life or health in a country. For that, demographers examine life expectancy and the rate of infant mortality.

Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality Life expectancy is the average length of time from birth that a person is expected to live given current death rates. Women have slightly longer life expectancies than men. Globally, the life expectancies for both men and women have risen substantially in the past century, from about 29 years in 1900 to 67 years today. Geodemographers have recently identified places called blue zones that have exceptionally long-lived populations (Figure 3.5).

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b. Okinawa, Japan—a well-studied blue zone—stands out, with 50 centenarians (persons 100 years or older) per 100,000 people, a rate four to five times higher than that in other countries with high 30° Okinawa, Japan life expectancies. Here, a 102-year-old Okinawan holds her great-greatgranddaughter. Lifestyle choices related to diet, 0° exercise, and social involvement with others are thought to help explain these patterns. 60°

Ikaria, Greece

Loma Linda, California

Barbagia Region, Sardinia

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Life Expectancy at Birth, 2009 (in years) 70 or older 60–69 50–59 40–49

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a. Life expectancy varies between countries, but Africa has the lowest life expectancies of any continent. The five labels identify blue zones; the one in Loma Linda corresponds to a Seventh-Day Adventist community.

72 CHAPTER 3 Population and Migration

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Greiner visualizing human geography chapters 2-5  
Greiner visualizing human geography chapters 2-5  

Chapters for Manual High School

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