Life expectancy in Nigeria may have increased, but a study shows there are diseases increasing the number of premature deaths.

The study, Annual Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study, which is the world’s largest scientific collaboration on population health, was published on Friday in Lagos by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

Malaria, diarrhoea, HIV and lower respiratory infection are some of the major causes of premature death, 4 experts said in the study.

The institute is an independent global health research centre at the University of Washington in Seattle, U.S.

In the study, Mr Jacob Olusanya, the Director, Centre for Healthy Start Initiative, said: “Life expectancy in Nigeria is growing, but people in many other sub-Saharan African countries are living longer and healthier lives.

“Diseases like malaria, diarrhoea diseases, HIV, neonatal encephalopathy, and lower respiratory infection are the top 5 causes of premature death in Nigeria.

“Infants and children are particularly at risk of these diseases, and neonatal ailments like sepsis and encephalopathy kill thousands of infants.

“We have much more work to do,” Olusanya was quoted as saying in the study.

According to him, ailments that caused illness could be very different.

“Iron-deficiency anaemia, back pain and migraines are the top causes of years that people live with disability in Nigeria.

“Deaths of children under 5 are a persistent health challenge. For every 1,000 live births, 46.6 Nigerian children under the age of five die.

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“This far exceeds the global figure of 38.4, and the regional average of countries in western sub-Saharan Africa, which is 40.7.

“Only a few countries in the region such as Niger, Mali, and Chad have higher rates of under-five mortality.

“Moreover, in 2016, for the first time in modern history, fewer than 5 million children under age 5 died in 1 year, as compared to 1990 when 11 million died,” Olusanya stated.

According to him, the main findings for Nigeria showed that a Nigerian child born in 2016 could expect to live 63.7 years, an increase in life expectancy of 7 years over the past decade.

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He said a woman had a life expectancy of 66.4 years, up 8.1 years from 2006.

“But, illness and injuries take away years of healthy life. A Nigerian male born in 2016 will live approximately 55.5 years in good health, while a female only has 57.2 years.

“Nigeria has a higher life expectancy than South Africa, Niger and Cameroon, but it is behind Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia,” Olusanya said in the study.

He attributed the global health landmark to improvement in increased educational levels of mothers and rising per capita incomes.

Also, the Director of IHME, Dr Christopher Murray, said: “Death is a powerful motivator, both for individuals and for countries to address diseases that have been killing us at high rate.

“But, we are being much less motivated to address issues leading to illnesses.

“A ‘triad of troubles- obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders- poses a stubborn and persistent barrier to active and vigorous lifestyles. “

Murray said the rate of illness related to people being too heavy is rising quickly, adding that the disease burden could be found in all socio-demographic levels.

“High Body Mass Index (BMI) is the fourth largest contributor to the loss of healthy life after high blood pressure, smoking and high blood sugar,” he highlighted.