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Logo of bmcphBioMed Centralsearchsubmit a manuscriptregisterthis articleBMC Public Health
BMC Public Health. 2012; 12: 85.
Published online 2012 January 27. doi:  10.1186/1471-2458-12-85
PMCID: PMC3331806

Political and social determinants of life expectancy in less developed countries: a longitudinal study



This study aimed to examine the longitudinal contributions of four political and socioeconomic factors to the increase in life expectancy in less developed countries (LDCs) between 1970 and 2004.


We collected 35 years of annual data for 119 LDCs on life expectancy at birth and on four key socioeconomic indicators: economy, measured by log10 gross domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity; educational environment, measured by the literacy rate of the adult population aged 15 years and over; nutritional status, measured by the proportion of undernourished people in the population; and political regime, measured by the regime score from the Polity IV database. Using linear mixed models, we analyzed the longitudinal effects of these multiple factors on life expectancy at birth with a lag of 0-10 years, adjusting for both time and regional correlations.


The LDCs' increases in life expectancy over time were associated with all four factors. Political regime had the least influence on increased life expectancy to begin with, but became significant starting in the 3rd year and continued to increase, while the impact of the other socioeconomic factors began strong but continually decreased over time. The combined effects of these four socioeconomic and political determinants contributed 54.74% - 98.16% of the life expectancy gains throughout the lag periods of 0-10 years.


Though the effect of democratic politics on increasing life expectancy was relatively small in the short term when compared to the effects of the other socioeconomic factors, the long-term impact of democracy should not be underestimated.

Keywords: Life expectancy, Socioeconomic factors, Developing countries, World health, Political factors, Public health, Malnutrition, Literacy, Democracy

Articles from BMC Public Health are provided here courtesy of BioMed Central