A former British colony, Malaysia achieved independence in 1957. Since gaining its freedom, Malaysia has seen steady growth, reducing its poverty rate, increasing literacy rates and providing affordable health care services. Life expectancy in Malaysia is at an all-time high. However, the promising statistics surrounding Malaysia’s booming economy provide a narrow window into poverty, mortality and other crises within the still-growing nation. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Malaysia give a closer look at the quality of life in the country.
10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Malaysia
- The life expectancy in Malaysia is around 75 years. While the life expectancy in Malaysia has increased from 50 years in the 1960s, it has remained stagnant at 75 years for over a decade.
- The primary cause of stagnated life expectancy in Malaysia is non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs like high blood pressure, diabetes and many cancers are going unchecked because of a lack of awareness and education. Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad has said that 50 percent of the patients attended for treatable NCDs like high blood pressure and diabetes in Malaysia were unaware that they were living with the diseases at all.
- Population aging has been a serious concern in Malaysia since the early 1990s. The population of people aged 60 and over in Malaysia more than doubled in a 19-year span. This age group also happens to be part of the population that NCDs most affect. The massive increase affects the social and economic progress of Malaysia and puts an immense strain on its health care system.
- Those who live in poverty have a higher mortality risk than those living above poverty lines. Although life expectancy in Malaysia is 75 years, more than half of older Malaysians live in poverty. Reported household incomes for this group are less than $5,222 per year and 22 percent reported an even lower income.
- Malaysia has made a powerful effort to make public health a priority by focusing on giving the best care to the elderly. Whether it was the National Policy for the Elderly in 1995, the National Health Policy for Older Persons in 2008 or the National Policy for Older Persons and Plan of Action for Older Persons in 2011, health care for the elderly has been a major undertaking by both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Women, Family & Community Development. Programs like the National Policy for Older Persons and Plan of Action for Older Persons seeks to accomplish improvements to life expectancy in Malaysia and mortality rates by developing social programs and legislation that improve health, wellbeing, safety and security.
- Part of the nationwide strategy has been to set up numerous nongovernmental organizations, like the MyKasih Foundation in 2009. The MyKasih Foundation centers its efforts on multiple facets of poverty reduction, like financial literacy programs, skills training and children’s education programs. MyKasih Foundation has provided cashless aid to 260,000 underprivileged families and students that equals $240 million RM (Malaysian Ringgit). Comparatively, that is over $57 million USD.
- The poverty rate in Malaysia has improved from 60 percent in the 1950s to three or four percent today. However, poverty has become a rotating door in Malaysia; many people who manage to claw their way out of poverty with the help of social programs end up back under the poverty line eventually. According to economist Fatimah Kari, the poverty cycle is due to generalized, one-size-fits-all programs that do not address the various needs that different regions have.
- Food poverty is a rising problem for rural and urban Malaysian citizens. This has led to many Malaysians not attaining sufficient nutrients, which may affect the performances of children in school and result in higher drop-out rates. If these children do not get an education, they also miss out on essential social programs that could help get them out of poverty. The good news is there are a plethora of Malaysian nonprofit organizations, like the MyKasih Foundation, that are affecting change. However, many of them lack the financial support to effectively extend their reach.
- Poverty affects life expectancy in Malaysia. A 2016 study about the distribution of mortality indicators by socioeconomic quintiles showed that disadvantaged districts in Malaysia had higher mortality outcomes than other more privileged districts. The poorer districts had fewer opportunities or necessary facilities to obtain a better quality of life. On the other hand, the study showed that rich districts have the essential infrastructure, health care and social services to mitigate the burden of disease.
- Economic development may not have equal distribution. Two landmasses make up Malaysia; the Malay Peninsula and the island of Borneo, Borneo being the poorer of the two. Since Malaysia’s independence and substantial growth, research exhibits income disparities between and within ethnic groups in these areas. Malays and indigenous natives carry the burden of that disparity because Malays made up 50 percent of the population as of 2010. Although the Chinese and Indian ethnic groups make up a significantly smaller portion of the population, both are more advantaged than the Malays and their socioeconomic statuses impact levels of mortality.
The 10 facts about life expectancy in Malaysia prove a disheartening truth but are also a reason for immense hope. The disadvantaged in Malaysia suffer greatly because of a lack of health awareness, insufficient health care resources and income disparity. However, the revitalization of Malaysia after its independence displays how a nation can survive and flourish when given the help and change in governance it needs. The economy of Malaysia continues to ascend and with more work, so too should life expectancy.
– Anthony Negron