China’s Smog Problem Slashes Half A Decade Off Life Expectancy

china smog pollution
Benjamin Vander Steen, Flickr

We’ve shown you the dramatic images of smog-filled Beijing before, but it’s only now becoming apparent just how deadly China’s air pollution actually is.

A new study has revealed that air pollution in northern China has reduced the life expectancy of locals by about five and a half years. The findings are the result of a major study by a team of international researchers who are analyzing the health effects of China’s air pollution based on data collected locally – the first time such an investigation has been conducted.Northern China is home to some of the most smog-choked cities in the world and the northern region of the populous country is significantly worse off than its southern counterpart. Why? For decades, the region north of the Huai River was provided with free heat during the country’s icy winters. This extra coal consumption resulted in a dramatic spike in air pollution across the north. According to researchers, dangerous particles in the air are 55 percent higher in the northern region of China than they are in the south.

The air pollution isn’t just an issue for locals. Thick smog in cities like Beijing – which is popular with both leisure and business travelers – can reduce visibility and lead to flights being canceled. The suffocating air also keeps many health-conscious tourists away, leading to fears that the pollution may impact the economy.

Top 20 countries for life expectancy

life expectancy

“Old people” – we all hope to live long enough to earn this distinction. In some countries, the probability of living well into your eighties is much better than in others. The worldwide average for life expectancy is just a smidge over 67, with the highest and lowest countries fluctuating by over 20 years in each direction. 39 of the bottom 40 countries are located on the African continent, and 3 of the top 5 are European micro-states. The United States ranks in at number 50, boasting a life expectancy of 78 years old.

At the bottom of the list is Angola, a country in southwestern Africa with a machete on its flag. The average life expectancy in Angola is almost 39 years old. At the other end of the spectrum is Monaco (pictured above). Monaco is a micro-state in Europe with an extremely high standard of living. The average person there lives to be 89 years old. The 50 year gap between these two countries represents the difference between yacht ownership and subsistence farming, and every other country falls somewhere in between. For the full list, check out the world fact book at cia.gov.

life expectancy 20. Bermuda – 80.71
19. Anguilla – 80.87 (at right)
18. Iceland80.90
17. Israel – 80.96
16. Switzerland – 81.07
15. Sweden – 81.07
14. Spain – 81.17
13. France – 81.19
12. Jersey81.38
11. Canada – 81.38
10. Italy81.779. Australia – 81.81
8. Hong Kong82.04
7. Singapore – 82.14
6. Guernsey82.16
5. Japan – 82.25
4. Andorra82.43
3. San Marino83.01
2. Macau – 84.41
1. Monaco – 89.73 (at top)

flickr images via needoptic and adomass