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Study finds there is a baby boom for some nations, bust for others

Yannis Behrakis, REUTERS | A migrant baby girl is seen sleeping aboard a rescue vessel, April 4 2017

Soaring birth rates in developing nations are fuelling a global baby boom while women in dozens of richer countries aren’t having enough children to maintain population levels there, according to figures released Friday.


A global overview of birth, death and disease rates evaluating thousands of datasets on a country-by-country basis found that fertility rates around the world are in decline.

These figures were released on the same day that America’s former First Lady Michelle Obama revealed that she had a miscarriage 20 years ago and underwent in vitro fertilization to conceive her two daughters.

Obama told American television channel ABC in an interview aired on "Good Morning America" she felt like she "failed because I didn't know how common miscarriages were because we don't talk about them." Obama, 54, says she and former President Barack Obama "had to do IVF" to conceive Sasha and Malia, now 17 and 20.

According to the IHME study, 91 nations, mainly in Europe and North and South America, weren’t producing enough children to sustain their current populations.

But in Africa and Asia fertility rates continue to grow, with the average woman in Niger giving birth to seven children during her lifetime.

Ali Mokdad, professor of Health Metrics Sciences at IHME, said that the single most important factor in determining population growth was education.

“It is down to socioeconomic factors but it’s a function of a woman’s education,” he said.

“The more a woman is educated, she is spending more years in school, she is delaying her pregnancies and so will have fewer babies.”

Cyprus least fertile

The IHME found that Cyprus was the least fertile nation on Earth, with the average woman giving birth just once in her life.

By contrast, women in Mali, Chad and Afghanistan have on average more than six babies.

Mokdad said that while populations in developing nations continue to rise, so in general are their economies growing.

This typically has a knock-on effect on fertility rates over time.

“In Asia and Africa the population is still increasing and people are moving from poverty to better income unless there are wars or unrest,” he said.

“Countries are expected to fare better economically and it’s more likely that fertility there will decline and level out.The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) used more than 8,000 data sources to compile one of the most detailed looks at global public health.

Their sources included in-country investigations, social media and open-source material.

It found that while the world’s population skyrocketed from 2.6 billion in 1950 to 7.6 billion last year, that growth was deeply uneven according to region and income.

The birth rate is a parameter of the entire population, while fertility is a parameter of a group of individuals in the population. Fertility rate determines the birth rate but, not the other way around. Fertility rate applies for females in the reproductive age, but there is no such restriction for birth rate.

‘Less mortality, more disability’

The United Nations predicts there will be more than 10 billion humans on the planet by the middle of the century, broadly in line with IHME’s projection.

This raises the question of how many people our world can support, known as Earth’s “carrying capacity”.

Not only are there now billions more of us than 70 years ago, but we are also living longer than ever before.

The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, showed male life expectancy had increased to 71 years from 48 in 1950. Women are now expected to live to 76, compared with 53 in 1950.

The IHME said heart disease was now the leading cause of death globally. As recently as 1990, neonatal disorders were the biggest killer, followed by lung disease and diarrhea.

Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Azerbaijan had the highest death rates from heart disease, where as South Korea, Japan and France had among the lowest.

The study also found that heart disease was now the single leading cause of death worldwide.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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