10 Countries With the Shortest Life Expectancy in 2024

Written by Sam Hindman
Updated: September 28, 2023
Share on:

Advertisement


Humanity has reached an era of great medicinal triumphs. Every day, scientists and other medical experts are discovering new ways to rapidly cure and treat previously undefeatable illnesses. However, access to this kind of care is unfortunately limited to only some parts of the world. Other parts, it seems, have sadly fallen behind. This article will cover the countries with the shortest life expectancy and will explain to readers both how and why the respective nations have not been able to achieve first-world advancements.

10 Countries With the Shortest Life Expectancy
Accessible healthcare is a major problem in these countries.

This article is not meant to shame any of these nations or citizens thereof, but rather to call attention to the sectors of the world that would most benefit from accessible healthcare. Ideally, all nations on Earth would have comparable human life expectancies. Though this is far from our reality, it is a goal that may someday be achieved with a combination of diligence and empathy.

How Are The Countries With the Shortest Life Expectancy Calculated?

Confident multiethnic male nurse in front of his medical team looking at camera wearing face mask during covid-19 outbreak. Happy and proud indian young surgeon standing in front of his colleagues.

There is no singular, perfect way to measure life expectancy. However, experts have tried to make the metric as accurate as possible.

©Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com

The data that we will be using in this article comes from the 2022 updates of The World Bank’s “life expectancy at birth” chart. But, what exactly does the phrase ‘life expectancy at birth’ entail? How is this metric calculated and measured, and what does it even truly mean?

Life expectancy at birth is, of course, a metric that details the length, in years, of that newborn’s life. That said, it’s a number that is always changing because the conditions of the newborn’s environment are entirely different depending on when it is born. The expectancy rate would only be accurate under the assumption that the nation’s patterns of death remain consistent throughout that newborn’s life. The metric effectively takes a glance at the number of people of various ages dying that year and calculates the life expectancy on that data.

This is, however, something that is not entirely accurate. This metric can only assume what a life expectancy would be based on already available mortality data. The life expectancy at birth is going to naturally be outdated because in order to know how long a baby in 2022 is expected to live, one would have to wait ~100 years and see how long the general population actually survives. As you can imagine, that’s not very reliable.

All in all, there is no singular foolproof way to calculate life expectancy. However, the metric used in this article is about as accurate as such a measurement can get. So, without further adieu, let’s dive into the countries with the shortest life expectancy.

10. Mali

The average life expectancy at birth for Mali in 2022 was 58.94 years.

©dutourdumonde/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Our first country of discussion, ranking tenth in the list of countries with the shortest life expectancy, is the Republic of Mali. In years, the life expectancy at birth in Mali was 58.94 in 2022. There was a 2.71-year difference in the expected lives of men and women, with men averaging 57.62 years, and women averaging 60.33. There are several socioeconomic and political reasons why these numbers fall so low.

The majority of Mali’s citizens fall below the international poverty line. The country’s healthcare system is weak and inaccessible at times, especially in rural areas where most people live. Mali has also had a lot of political conflicts in recent years, which makes it hard to difficult to concentrate on the improvement of living conditions. Diseases like malaria are widespread, hitting young children and pregnant women the hardest. All these issues are connected and together they result in an unfortunately low lifespan for the people of Mali.

9. Guinea

flag of Guinea

Guinea gained their independence from France in 1958.

©Design_Bank/Shutterstock.com

The Republic of Guinea, formerly known as French Guinea, is situated in West Africa and is home to a population of about 1.5 million individuals. This nation places ninth on our list of countries with the lowest life expectancy, as the average lifespan sits at 58.89 years. There’s about a two-year difference between men and women, who have lifespans of 57.59 and 60.10 years respectively.

Though there are a number of reasons why the average lifespan in this nation is so low, political unrest is the primary one. This nation only gained independence from France in 1958, which means that it has not even had a century’s worth of time to develop. Even then, the country was under authoritarian rule until its first democratic election in 2010. Still battling each day to become united, it is no wonder why lawmakers and citizens alike do not have the capacity to work on the advancement of healthcare.

8. Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire)

Cote d'Ivoire on a map

Though commonly referred to as the Ivory Coast, this nation’s real name is Côte d’Ivoire.

©llucky78/Shutterstock.com

On the border of West Africa lies the Ivory Coast, which is the common name for the nation of Côte d’Ivoire. The eighth country on our top ten countdown, this nation has a life expectancy of only 58.60, with a 2.54-year gender gap. The average life expectancy in years for men is 57.40, and for women, it is 59.94.

The Ivory Coast gained its sovereignty in 1960 and was not always a nation of socioeconomic distress. It was in fact, one of the world’s leading providers of coffee and cocoa during the 1960s and 1970s. It remained prosperous until a highly unfortunate economic crash occurred in the 1980s, sending the Ivory Coast into a state of turmoil from which the nation has not yet fully recovered. This state only began to settle in 2011, following the conclusion of not one, but two civil wars.

7. Eswatini

flag of Eswatini

Eswatini has one of the world’s highest rates of HIV infection. This could contribute to the male population’s low life expectancy.

©em_concepts/Shutterstock.com

The nation of Eswatini is seventh on our list of countries with the shortest life expectancy. The general average expectancy is 57.07 years. Something particularly interesting about this nation’s life expectancy is the high discrepancy between men and women. While all other nations on this list have a gap of five years or less for men’s and women’s life expectancies, Eswatini has one of nearly eight years. For men, the life expectancy is 53.37 years. For women, though, it’s 61.25 years. There are a few reasons this might be.

For starters, the most simple answer is that men participate in more risky behaviors. They are more likely to binge drink and smoke, and will often have jobs that entail dangerous activities with high physical risks. Although there may be another, more location-specific explanation. Eswatini has one of the world’s highest HIV prevalence rates. Although both men and women are affected, women tend to get tested and treated for HIV more frequently than men. This could mean that men are more likely to die from AIDS-related illnesses, which would contribute to a lower life expectancy for men.

6. Somalia

Somalia has a short life expectancy due to its lack of a number of important institutions like healthcare, education, and social services.

©iStock.com/HomoCosmicos

Now, at about halfway through our list, is the nation of Somalia. Located in the Horn of Africa, the average life expectancy at birth for a Somalian citizen is 55.28 years. The gender discrepancy is 4.17 years, with men living to be an average of 53.25 years old, and women an average of 57.41 years old.

There are many reasons why Somalia has a short life expectancy. There is political turmoil, yes, but also a healthcare system that is unable to treat a number of otherwise preventable illnesses. Diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and cholera run rampant with no available vaccinations. This, in tandem with poor education and a lack of a stable government body, is what makes the lives of Somalians so tragically short.

5. South Sudan

One of the demographically youngest nations in the world, more than half of South Sudan’s population is under the age of 18.

©iStock.com/Nabil Kamara

South Sudan is our fifth-place nation, with a short life expectancy of a mere 54.98 years. While men live to be an average of 53.43 years, women can live to potentially reach 56.47 years. Gaining its independence in 2011, it is the newest sovereign state in the world as of 2023. This is a likely explanation for the short life expectancy, as it is fresh out of a state of war. An interesting fact about South Sudan is that the population of the nation is exceptionally young. So young, in fact, that over half of its 11 million citizens are under the age of 18 years old.

4. Central African Republic

The flag of the Central African Republic flying against a cloudless blue sky

The Central African Republic is the country with the fourth shortest life expectancy in the world.

©railway fx/Shutterstock.com

Fourth on our list is the Central African Republic, which gained its independence in 1960. The average life expectancy at birth is 53.90. There is a 4.66-year discrepancy between men and women, with the male expectancy at 51.65 years, and the female expectancy at 56.30.

There are a number of reasons why this country ranked so low in life expectancy. The Central African Republic ranked the lowest, 156th out of 156 countries, in the Human Development Index of 2022. This means that it is developmentally the worst nation to live in. In addition to this, it is also estimated to be the unhealthiest nation, and the worst nation to reside in as a young person.

3. Lesotho

close up waving flag of Lesotho. flag symbols of Lesotho.

Lesotho has an average life expectancy of 53.06 years.

©Tatohra/Shutterstock.com

Third is the nation of Lesotho, with an average life expectancy of 53.06 years. The men have an average expectancy of 50.37 years, and the women have an average of 55.93 years. Lesotho used to be a kingdom and is the only enclave (besides the Italian peninsula) that has its independence. There are many things that result in this nation’s low life expectancy. These include the fact that the nation has the second-highest number of HIV infections in the world, as well as nearly half of its citizens lying below the poverty line.

2. Nigeria

the Flag of nigeria in the world map

There is less than a year’s difference in the life expectancy of men and women in Nigeria.

©hyotographics/Shutterstock.com

We are now nearing the end of our list of countries with the shortest average life expectancy. Second to last is Nigeria, a nation that lies in West Africa. This life expectancy is 52.68 years, and interestingly enough, there is little discrepancy between the expectancies of men and women in the country. In fact, there is less than a year’s difference! Men have an average expectancy of 52.28 years, and women have an expectancy of 53.07 years. Much like the other nations on this list, the low life expectancy is a result of a combination of many issues. Among these are poor healthcare access, little education, and impoverished citizens.

1. Chad

Chad is the nation with the lowest life expectancy on Earth.

©iStock.com/Nabil Kamara

At the bottom of our list, the country with the shortest life expectancy of them all is Chad. Located in between North and Central Africa, a citizen of Chad may only live to be an average of 52.52 years old. This is over thirty years less than the nation with the longest life expectancy, Hong Kong. While women may live an average of 54.28 years, the men of the nation have an average life expectancy of 50.84.

Among other things, Chad is notorious for its poor respect for human rights. In the past, both the nation’s armed militia and general security forces have been reported to kill extrajudicially, imprison arbitrarily, and severely limit the civil liberties of its citizens. This comes in tandem with the citizen’s exceptionally large rates of hunger, disease, and poverty. In other words- this is not an ideal nation to reside in.

Summary of the Countries with the Shortest Life Expectancy

RankCountryLife Expectancy in Year
1.Chad52.52
2.Nigeria52.68
3.Lesotho53.06
4.Central African Republic53.90
5.South Sudan54.98
6.Somalia55.28
7.Eswatini57.07
8.Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire)58.60
9.Guinea58.89
10.Mali58.94

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com


Share on:
About the Author

Sam Hindman is a writer at A-Z animals covering a range of topics, including pet care, plant care, pest control and travel destinations. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Multimedia Studies at Point Park University, set to graduate in the spring of 2024. A resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when she isn't writing, she's spending time with her beloved cat Archie.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.