Life Expectancy in Nigeria

There is a popular story in John O’Hara’s book known as the “Appointment in Samarra”. It describes an apprentice that tried to outrun death, and in the process fixed his appointment with death in the village he had gone to take refuge in. You could call it providence, you could call it apoptosis, but by whatever name it is called, the inevitability of death is a reality. It is only important that we have the conversation about death and sustain awareness.


A number of factors can determine what the life expectancy of a people would be. From diseases to war and natural disasters, life expectancy is not an absolute number that people use as marker for their lives, but a reflection of how societal and natural structures are suited to support life. Different countries have different life expectancies, based on their economy, occurrence of natural disaster, and so on.


At the moment, human life can only last for a few years; say 70 to 80 to 100 years. We could even be more precise. Currently, the worldwide life expectancy is averagely 71.5 years (about 68 for men and 72 for women). But then in this article, we would beam our spotlight on the African continent, and on the country Nigeria.


Nigeria is a country with over 200 million people. And the country is certainly plagued by some endemic diseases that take some lives yearly, not to mention the economic volatility that has left families in difficult circumstances in recent times. So your guess is as good as mine, the life expectancy in Nigeria falls way below the worldwide average.


Based on global data provided recently by the WHO just last year in 2018, the life expectancy in Nigeria is averagely at 55.2 years (with an average Male expected to live for 54.7 years, and female for 55.7). These numbers placed Nigeria on the 178th position of the 192 countries in the World Life Expectancy ranking. It should be noted that the number had once plummeted down to 47 years a few years ago, so we can as well call the current number an improvement.


You might be curious as to what the causes of death are in Nigeria. Below are some of them, the top 10 actually;


  1. Malaria – 20%
  2. Lower Respiratory Infections – 19%
  3. HIV – 9%
  4. Diarrheal Diseases – 5%
  5. Road Injuries – 5%
  6. Protein/Energy Malnutrition – 4%
  7. Cancer – 3%
  8. Meningitis – 3%
  9. Stroke – 3%
  10. Tuberculosis – 2%


Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

Studies by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show that other causes like accident, road traffic and birth trauma among others, contribute significantly to the low life expectancy in the country. A study published last year showed that there are good chances that life expectancy in Nigeria can increase to 74.8 years by 2040. The study, “Forecasting life expectancy, years of life lost, and all-cause and cause-specific mortality for 250 causes of death: reference and alternative scenarios for 2016-40 for 195 countries and territories using data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016,” was carried out by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

IHME is an independent global health research organization at the University of Washington that provides rigorous and comparable measurement of the world’s most important health problems and evaluates the strategies used to address them.




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