An average Indian lived 4.6 years longer in 2008 compared to a decade earlier. An average Indian woman lived three years more than her male counterpart in 2008. While the life expectancy at birth for women was 67.7 years, for men it stood at 64.6 years. This was an increase of 2.5 years and 1.8 years, respectively, when compared to the life expectancy (LE) in 2002.
According to the latest life expectancy data — to be released by the Registrar General of India this week after a gap of almost five years — the LE of a rural Indian increased by 2.2 years between 2002 and 2008. However, the LE of an urban Indian was up by just 1.2 years over the same period. Interestingly, an urban female lived 4.9 years longer than a rural female and 7.9 years longer than a rural male.
A woman living in rural Kerala had the highest LE at birth across all categories at 77.2 years. In contrast, LE at birth was lowest at below 60 years for a rural male in Madhya Pradesh. Rural males also lived longest in Kerala at 71.2 years, which was 7.7 years longer than the average rural Indian male.
Kerala's rural female LE of 77.2 years was also 10.7 years more than the average rural female LE in the country. Interestingly, women seem to have a longer life span than their male counterparts in most of the major states. In West Bengal and Rajasthan, for example, women lived 3.6 years longer than their male counterparts in 2008.
In Tamil Nadu, women lived 3.8 years longer, while in Punjab it was 4.2 years, Maharashtra (4 years), Haryana (2.5 years), Gujarat (4.1 years), Himachal Pradesh (4.7 years), Karnataka (4.8 years) and Kerala (5.4 years).
Deputy registrar general Bhaskar Mishra said, "LE of an average Indian is improving by the year. What is most interesting is the widening gap between LE of an Indian male and a female which is a trend similar to developed countries. This may be because of the rapid bridging of the gap in child mortality between males and females. The previous data on LE came out in 2007."
So what are the main reasons for Indians living longer now than a decade ago? Experts say that the three big reasons for LE to have increased are better food supply and nutrition, healthier lifestyle and better hygiene.
"More people are interested in the nutritional content of the food they eat and plan their diet accordingly. People are consciously making better lifestyle choices that reduce chances or delay the risk of developing diseases. People wash their hands more often that reduces infection rate," a health ministry official said.
Between 2006 and 2010, men were living the longest in Kerala (71.5), Jammu & Kashmir (69.2), Maharashtra (67.9), Himachal Pradesh (67.7), Punjab and West Bengal (67.4) and Tamil Nadu (67.1). LE among males was lowest in Assam (61).
When it came to females, Kerala once again took the top spot with the average LE between 2006 and 2010 at 76.9 years, followed by Himachal Pradesh (72.4), Maharashtra (71.9), Punjab (71.6) and J&K (71.1). Assam was once again at the bottom of the ladder with an average woman expected to live till just 63.2 years.