San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican's life expectancy among the world's highest; infant mortality drops

Life expectancy in Costa Rica remains among the highest in Latin America, as the National Statistics and Census Institute (INEC) reported this week that the average life span in the country is 79.3 years.

By averaging the ages of people who died within the country during the past year, INEC concluded that the national life expectancy for women is 81.8 years and the life expectancy for men is 76.8 years.

According to the United Nations World Population Prospects report, among Latin American countries, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile and Puerto Rico all have life expectancies of more than over 78 years of age.

INEC also announced that the country´s infant mortality rate fell during 2009. For the year, an average of 8.84 infants out of every 1,000 died during their first year of life. In 2008, the infant mortality rate was calculated at 8.95 infant deaths per every 1,000 births. Of the estimated 75,000 children born in Costa Rica in 2009, 663 died before reaching their first birthdays.

Costa Rica has one the lowest infant mortality rates in Latin America. Cuba, Puerto Rico and Chile also have infant mortality rates measured at fewer than 9 for every 1,000 births. Many African nations have infant mortality rates of more than 100 deaths per 1,000 births. There, more than 72 percent of infant deaths occurred in the first 28 days of life and were considered neonatal deaths or deaths at the time of birth.

In Costa Rica, three provinces reported infant mortality rates above the national average. The infant mortality rate per 1,000 births for Puntarenas was calculated at 11.7, for Cartago at 10.71, and for Limón at 9.26.

According to a report conducted by the United Nations in 2009, increased numbers in infant deaths are usually found in areas of higher poverty. In October, INEC´s housing survey revealed that the southern Brunca region had the highest incidence of poverty, with almost 31 percent of households in the region falling below the poverty line.

INEC also reported that deaths of mothers during childbirth dropped in 2009. For every 10,000 births, an average of 2.67 mothers died while in labor. In 2008, that figure was 3.33 maternal deaths for every 10,000 births.

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