A recent study indicates that Belizeans are living longer if they survive the first year after birth. That’s what surveys by the Statistical Institute of Belize are concluding. In the region, the picture is pretty much the same in Mexico and Panama, but way behind as it relates to Costa Rica. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports on life expectancy in the Jewel in which the male population will live an average of sixty-five years.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Life expectancy is the number of years one can expect to live, on average, given their age and sex. Taking into consideration the pattern of mortality rate over time, and given the existing composition of Belize’s population, a person who survives to a particular age can expect to live longer. In most cases however, life expectancy refers to when a new baby is born and how long they are expected to live, all things remaining constant.
Jacqueline Small, Demographer
“Boys tend to succumb at a much higher rate than girls during the first year of life and then later on, as we approach young adulthood, men are far more likely than women to engage in risky behaviors. So the fast driving, drinking under the influence, becoming involved in behaviors that can result in violent deaths, men tend to seek medical attention not quite as readily as females. Some of these are the reasons why there is such a large gap in life expectancy at birth between males and females.”
The reason why there is a higher mortality rate among males can be attributed to genetics, nonetheless, newborn babies are very susceptible to factors such as birth defects and respiratory illnesses, thus there is a fairly high chance of dying during the first year, particularly if the right infrastructure is not in place to provide the necessary support.
“If you survive to age one, your life expectancy goes up by a few months. For males more than for females. Children who are now ten years old can expect to live, on average, about sixty-five more years. Now, if you are retiring from the government service or about to retire, the government can expect to pay on average twenty-six, about twenty-six years of pension to you. Note that by the time you get to age fifty-five the gap in life expectancy between males and females has closed significantly. At birth there was almost a six-year difference in life expectancy between males and females but by fifty-five it’s been reduced to about two years or so. For our older persons, persons who are about eighty years now they can expect to live on average another ten years and by this time there is no difference in life expectancy between males and females.”
In the regional context, while Belize is behind Costa Rica, we are on an average level with Mexico and Panama and almost ten years in life expectancy ahead of Nicaragua.
“It is very important that when you talk about life expectancy, you say ‘on average’ because there’s no guarantee that an eighty-year-old will live ten more years. Some eighty-year-olds will die before they get to eighty-one. Some will die at eighty-five and some will live to one hundred and five and so we average all of those years that they would live together to get this ten years or so. Now, like I mentioned before, the life expectancy, the life tables allow us to see how well we are doing compared to our neighbors and here you will see that we’re pretty much on par with Mexico and Panama. However, Costa Rica is about five years ahead of us. On the other hand, we are about eight years or so ahead of Nicaragua.”
As it concerns life expectation, based on the number of additional years the population can now expect to live, the Social Security Board, for example, in planning ahead, may want to consider how many more persons they will be paying a pension to for the years ahead, to ensure that they can meet their financial obligations. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.