COLOMBO — Sri Lanka is a country in South Asia located in the Indian Ocean with a population of more than 21 million. Since the end of its civil war in 2009, Sri Lanka’s economy has grown an average of 5.6 percent between 2010 and 2018. Curative and preventative health services available to its citizens free of charge help to place Sri Lanka’s life expectancy relatively high in comparison to surrounding countries. However, a large portion of the population lives on an income that is only slightly above the poverty line, leaving room for improvement in expenditure on services surrounding social protection and education. These are 10 facts about life expectancy in Sri Lanka.
10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Sri Lanka
- According to World Health Organization data from 2018, overall life expectancy at birth in Sri Lanka stands at 75.3. This ranks Sri Lanka just below the Maldives and just above Bangladesh, two other countries in South Asia. Sri Lanka’s life expectancy ranking is 70 in comparison to the rest of the world.
- Data from 2017 shows that the average life expectancy for women is 79.97 and 73.23 for men. This number is expected to rise even more in 2020 to an estimated 74 years for men and 81.1 years for women.
- Heart disease, stroke and diabetes have been among the top three causes of death in Sri Lanka since 2007. The number one cause of death is coronary heart disease, totaling 28,554 total deaths. The second leading cause of death is stroke, which accounts for 16,198 total deaths. Since 2007, deaths from heart disease have risen by 14.3 percent while stroke deaths have decreased by 3.6 percent.
- The number of children under 5 years old who are overweight has risen from 0.8 percent in 2009 to 2 percent in 2016. This number is higher for boys than it is for girls. The Women’s Rural Development Society spreads information on the link between lifestyle and obesity, mainly through encouraging screening for BMI rates and education on exercise and nutrition.
- A transition from agrarian farming to a sedentary urban lifestyle has caused a rise in obesity and diabetes. In an effort to target this and decrease what accounts for more than 40 percent of all deaths, the government responded by setting up 700 healthy lifestyle centers to educate the public and test for non-communicable diseases (NCD) since 2011. These centers have helped inform women and men about the dangers of improper nutrition.
- Since 2013, the World Bank and Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health have been doing more to target Sri Lanka’s health system. Thanks to this collaboration, the Second Health Sector Development Project has helped target NCDs and create guidelines for trauma units in hospitals. Since the program’s completion in 2018, it has provided more than 4,000 clinics across Sri Lanka with trained health providers and increased the ability to treat NCDs by having 81 percent of the 890 health centers offer a nonstop supply of the 16 drugs necessary to treat NCDs.
- Fertility rates have slowly declined since 2008. The rate has dropped 0.72 percent from 2.25 births per woman in 2000 to 2.19 births per woman in 2019. Among other South Asian countries, Sri Lanka is tied with India in terms of births per woman.
- Child mortality rates have decreased from 16.3 (per 1,000 live births) to 0.4 for children under the age of 5 and 10.1 to 5.3 for neonatal in 2016, according to data from the World Health Organization. These numbers are largely due to an increase in access to health care and improved maternal and child services. More than 4,000 clinics in Sri Lanka have been equipped with maternal and child health services since 2013.
- Data from 2015 shows that tobacco use in Sri Lanka is only 5.3 percent for females between the ages of 18 and 69. This number is much larger for men with a rate of 45.7 percent between the ages of 18 and 69.
- A contributing factor to increased life expectancy rates in Sri Lanka is its universal health coverage, which was established in 1989 and provides comprehensive care to all of its citizens. Furthermore, the country has focused on shifting health care to a community center approach to target non-communicable diseases. Since 2014, the World Health Organization has supported funding for islandwide training of medical officers and training health workers to detect, manage and treat NCDs.
Sri Lanka has come a long way from the war-torn country it once was prior to 2009. While people are living longer, there is still a considerable need for quality of life improvements and greater equality among citizens, as well as a shift to understand new health problems that have arisen from urban lifestyles. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Sri Lanka shed light on these issues.
– Laurel Sonneby