Aside from declining fertility rates and the trend towards smaller families, a global increase in life expectancies is the main driver behind the ongoing transition towards older societies. Thanks to global progress in ensuring access to health care, sanitation, education and the ongoing fight against hunger, life expectancy is not only increasing around the world, but the gap between highly-developed regions and the rest of the world is gradually closing.
According to the United Nations Population Division, global life expectancy at birth for both sexes has improved from 46.5 years in 1950 to 71.7 years in 2022 and is expected to rise to 77.3 by 2050. Perhaps more importantly though, the global life expectancy gap is closing, with Asia in particular making rapid progress in catching up with Europe and North America.
Between 1950 and 2000, life expectancy in Asia increased by more than 25 years, cutting the gap towards North America and Europe from more than 20 years to less than 10 years. By 2050, Asia is expected to have almost caught up with the Western world with its life expectancy reaching almost 80 years. Despite rapid improvements, Africa is the only region expected to lag behind the rest of the world in life expectancy by 2050.