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Syrian life expectancy drops six years as war rages

More than five years after Arab Spring uprisings spread across the Middle East, new data shows life expectancy in several countries have taken a hit.

by Kayla Ruble
Aug 25 2016, 3:50pm

Photo par Hosam Katan/Reuters

The Arab Spring uprisings that spread across the Middle East in 2011 eventually led to regime changes, civil society crackdowns, and several bloody conflicts. More than five years later, new data shows life expectancy in several countries, from Libya to Syria, has also taken a hit.

Syrians can now expect to live about six years less than they would have if the civil war there had never started. Since Libya devolved into conflict after Muammar Gaddafi's 2011 ousting, men in the country have lost nine years off their lives and women lost six years. Life expectancy also dropped by a quarter of a year in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen.

These figures are according to new study on the state of health in the Middle East out of the University of Washington that analyzed 23 years of data extending to 2013.

"Our study shows that the eastern Mediterranean region is going through a crucial health phase," the study states in its summary. "The Arab uprisings and the wars that followed, coupled with aging and population growth, will have a major impact on the region's health and resources."

In Syria, where the ongoing conflict has killed 400,000 people and placed millions in dire need of humanitarian aid, war was reported as a "large contributor" to the years of life lost.

The new numbers reverse gains in the Middle East had been making in public health despite stressful domestic conditions. Before the recent declines, Egypt, Syria, Libya, and Yemen all saw life expectancies increase by about five years between 1990 and 2010.

Syria reduced infant mortality rate by about 6 percent each year until 2010, but the death rate for babies has since been on the rise. Syria now finds itself behind countries in sub-Saharan Africa when it comes to improving infant survival rates.

As a whole, the Middle East saw life expectancy grow to 71 years by 2013, but the study's authors say the devastation in countries like Syria and Libya is significant enough to start rolling back these improvements as the conflict and refugee crises take their toll.

Follow Kayla Ruble on Twitter: @RubleKB

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arab spring
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