A 2010 Human Development Report by the UN states that overall, life expectancy around the globe has jumped to 70 years in 2010, up from 58 in 1970.
The Human Development Index (HDI) looks at both political and economic status as indicators of development. For example, it looks at gender equality.
The HD Report shows that , in some African countries, life expectancy decreased because of AIDs and wars. Life expectancy decreased in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine. The report blames alcoholism and the stress of shifting to a market economy in the former Soviet Union. Countries that improved the most since 1970 are: China, Oman, Nepal, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Tunisia, S Korea, Algeria and Morocco. A study of one or more of these countries would be useful. Is some form of strategic trade theory being applied, I wonder?
Developed nations still rank the highest HDI, although the US has gradually been shifting downwards. For example, the US is ranked 37th in gender equality (measured by number of women in Congress, maternal health, etc). 2010 HDI Report is here: http://hdr.undp.org/en/data/trends/.
The Legatum Institute's Prosperity Index also doesn't measure prosperity by income or GDP alone. It also considers personal freedoms, safety/security,and entrepreneurship. It has ranked Egypt, scene of this month's uprising against a US-backed military dictatorship, as 89th out of 110 nations. Two countries in the Middle East are in the bottom 10: Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Around the world, millions are suffering. This is from the non profit site World Hunger:
* Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger. 75% of them are children.
* There is enough food to feed every person on earth, yet 17% of us are currently malnourished or starving.
* The problem affects people of every race and on every continent.
* 1,386 people died from Hurricane Katrina, yet 24,000 people die EACH DAY from starvation or malnutrition.
* Even in the richest country in the world, the United States, over 10 million people suffer from hunger.
* More people around the world are dying of starvation than any other time in history.
* Malnutrition, as measured by stunting of growth, affects 32.5 percent of children in developing countries