PARIS – Rising birth rates in developing countries are driving the global boom for children, but women in dozens of richer countries do not produce enough children to keep the population there, according to data released on Friday.
A worldwide review of the number of births, deaths and illnesses evaluating thousands of data sets for each country has also shown that heart disease is now the leading cause of death worldwide.
The Institute of Metric Health and Evaluation (IHME), created at the University of Washington by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, used over 8,000 data sources – over 600 of them new – to develop one of the most detailed views on global public health.
Their source was investigations in the country, social media and open source materials.
It turned out that while the world's population grew rapidly from 2.6 billion in 1950 to 7.6 billion last year, the increase was deeply uneven depending on the region and income.
Ninety-one countries, mainly in Europe and North and South America, did not produce enough children to maintain their current population, according to the IHME study.
However, in Africa and Asia fertility rates continued to rise, and the average woman in Niger gave birth to seven children during her lifetime.
Ali Mokdad, Professor of Health Metrics Sciences at IHME, told AFP that education is the most important factor determining the growth of the population.
"It depends on socio-economic factors, but it is a function of women's education," he said. "The more a woman is educated, she spends more years in school, delays pregnancy, and so she will have fewer children."
IHME found that Cyprus is the least prolific nation on Earth, and the average woman is born only once in her life.
However, women in Mali, Chad and Afghanistan have on average more than six children.
The United Nations foresees that by the middle of the century there will be over 10 billion people, which is broadly in line with the IHME projection.
This raises the question of how many people can support our world, called the "capacity of the Earth".
Mokdad said that while populations in developing countries are still growing, their economies are generally growing.
This usually has an impact on fertility rates over time.
"In Asia and Africa, the population is still growing, and people are moving from poverty to better income – unless there are wars or unrests," he said.
"Countries are expected to pay better in the economy and it is more likely that fertility will fall there and decrease."
Not only is it billions more than 70 years ago, but we also live longer than ever before.
Research, published in the Lancet medical journal, showed that the average life expectancy of men increased to 71 years from 48 in 1950. Women are expected to live up to 76 years, compared with 53 in 1950.
Living longer brings its own health problems. imposing greater burdens on our healthcare systems.
IHME claimed that heart disease is now the leading cause of death worldwide. Back in 1990, the most serious killer were neonatal disorders, followed by lung diseases and diarrhea.
Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Azerbaijan had the highest mortality due to heart disease; South Korea, Japan and France were among the lowest.
"You see less mortality due to infectious diseases, when countries get richer, but also greater disability, because people live longer," said Mokdad.
He pointed out that although death from infectious diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, had significantly declined since 1990, it has emerged a new indestructible killer.
"There are some behaviors that lead to an increase in cardiovascular disease and cancer, and obesity is number one – it's growing every year, and our behavior contributes to that."