Background: To better understand factors influencing life expectancy, this paper examines how the availability of publicly funded health care in a country and multiple social determinants of health impact longevity of life.
Methods: In this descriptive statistical analysis, data regarding publicly funded health care, life expectancy, and social determinants of health were obtained for 196 countries and 4 territories. Social determinants included 10 indicators detailing country-level information to represent 5 key categories: economic stability, education, health & health care, neighbourhood & built environment, and social & community context. Analyses consisted of: 1) comparison of mean life expectancy among countries and territories with- and without- publicly funded health care; 2) correlations in life expectancy across social determinants by health care access and level of burden; and 3) correlations in life expectancy within social determinants for health care access by level of burden.
Results: Overall, life expectancy in countries and territories with- publicly funded health care (Mean (m) = 76.7 years) was significantly longer compared to countries and territories without- publicly funded health care (m = 66.8 years, P < 0.0001). For each social determinant, we observed longer life expectancy continued to be associated with publicly funded health care access across stratum (P < 0.0001), but difference in years of life expectancy existed both by burden of social determinant, as well as access to health care within quartiles of burden (Publicly funded care (yes): 68.12-80.88 years, (no): 62.39-77.33 years, all P < 0.05). Both social determinants as well as the availability of publicly funded health care were individually and simultaneously associated with mean longevity of life between countries and territories worldwide.
Conclusions: These findings demonstrate how, if made widely available, publicly funded health care could extend longevity of life. If combined with programs to reduce the burden of social determinants, a substantial impact can be made to promote more equitable distribution of life expectancies across the world. Ultimately, both access to publicly funded care and reducing inequalities in social determinants are needed in order to promote longer and healthier aging in populations worldwide.
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