Beijing: the World’s Unhealthiest City

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 | By:

In a grim milestone for toxicity, Beijing was recently found to be the global leader in infirmity. The government-run Center for Disease Control and Prevention released data last week that concludes that residents of the capital will suffer assorted health maladies for a larger portion of their lives than will be the case for residents of any other city in the world.

Beijing’s relative wealth, stability and healthcare access suggests the primary culprit behind this sad statistic is the city’s stubborn pollution problem, though Adam Minter at Bloomberg suggests water, food contamination, and shoddy pharmaceuticals are also contributing factors.

Beijingers’ unhealthiness was measured in HALE–“health-adjusted life expectancy”–a system used by the world’s leading health organizations to measure the length of time one spends life being sick, incapacitated or otherwise unwell against the length of time everything is more-or-less fine. So you have a “HALE adjusted” life expectancy and a “traditional” life expectancy, which, in economically developed societies, tends to be a difference of about eight to twelve years. For instance, on average a Japanese woman’s HALE life expectancy is 75.5 years, while her traditional one is 85.9 years. She will spend ten years of her life in some way out-of-sorts.

Beijing’s HALE is as bad as it gets. While lifespan has been on the increase due to rising affluence and improved healthcare, the HALE index has been sliding backwards. Today, an 18 year-old male can expect to live to 80, but his HALE will clock in at 61.4 years; the other 20 years, about 40 percent of his remaining life, will be spent in some way infirm. Women fare far worse as 84 is the average female life expectancy in a city where the HALE is 56.06. That’s almost 30 years spent under the doctor’s gaze.

Air pollution is not showing signs of abating any time soon. If HALE trends continue at their current rate, Beijing, if it doesn’t already, may have an incredible health crisis in store.


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6 Responses to Beijing: the World’s Unhealthiest City

  1. Pingback: Hao Hao Report

  2. Been2beijing says:

    Beijing is polluted but it not ”world unhealthiest city”.

    • Cameron Saunders says:

      I agree there are a number of ways one could scientifically rate such a broad statement as “the world’s unhealthiest city.” One of these ways–one used by internationally regarded health institutions such as the WHO–is by HALE count. Going by the HALE index alone, Beijing is the unhealthiest city in the world.

      • Bill Rich says:

        When Chinese wants to believe in their government, no hard facts can change their faith.

    • Bill Rich says:

      OK. It is not the “world unhealthiest”, it is “second world unhealthiest” after Tientsin.

  3. Bill Rich says:

    As long as people can make money, Chinese people don’t worry about health, until it is too late.

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