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The healthy life expectancy at birth in Canada in 2012 is 82. (Paul Bersebach/The Orange County Register/Associated Press)

Life expectancy in Canada and other countries around the world is growing, according to a new report from the World Health Organization, with most of the progress apparent in low-income countries.

In Canada, average life expectancy for males born in 2012 is 80 and for females 84, the agency said in Thursday's report, World Health Statistics 2014.

In comparison, males born in Canada in 1990 could expect to live to 74 and females to 81 on average.

For both sexes in Canada, life expectancy increased on average from 77 in 1990 to 82 in 2012.

Low-income countries have made the most progress, with an average increase in life expectancy by nine years from 1990 to 2012.

Worldwide, much of the improvement in life expectancy is the result of fewer children dying before their fifth birthday, WHO director general Dr. Margaret Chan said. The decline translates into 17,000 fewer children dying every day in 2012 than in 1990.

"Nevertheless, nearly 18,000 children worldwide died every day in 2012, and the global speed of decline in mortality rate remains insufficient to reach the target of a two-thirds reduction in the 1990 levels of mortality by the year 2015," the report's authors wrote.

The divide between people in high-income countries and low-income countries also persists.

WHO said that in high-income countries, most of the gain in life expectancy is credited to fewer people dying before age 60 from heart disease and stroke.

For men, the top three countries for life expectancy in 2012 were:

  • Iceland, 81.2.
  • Switzerland 80.7.
  • Australia     80.5

For women, the top countries were:

  • Japan 87.0.
  • Spain 85.1.
  • Switzerland 85.1.

Among high-income countries, the gap between longer life expectancy for women and men narrowed by one year, mainly because smoking rates for men fell more than for women.

Life expectancy for both men and women is still less than 55 years in nine sub-Saharan African countries — Angola, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

The agency estimated that only one-third of all deaths worldwide are recorded in civil registries along with cause-of-death information.


  • The photo cutline in an earlier version of this story gave the incorrect healthy life expectancy at birth in Canada in 2012. The correct age is 82.
    Oct 09, 2015 10:35 AM ET