Skip to main content

Main Area


Countries with the youngest and oldest populations

Wengen // Pixabay

Countries with the youngest and oldest populations

While most of us are keenly aware that our biological clocks have a fixed stopping point, we’re often looking for ways to keep them chugging along for just a little longer. One factor many may not consider when thinking about the length of their lives is how big of an impact where they live has on their longevity.

The two are, in fact, inextricably linked. Stacker has rounded up the countries with the youngest and oldest populations. This list represents the 25 countries with the highest median age, and the 25 countries with the lowest median age, to demonstrate which countries have longer life expectancies and which ones have shorter life expectancies.

One thing that is quickly evident is how much wealth leads to older populations who are living longer, giving countries higher median ages, as well as how much war and violence leads to younger populations. Only sovereign states and members of the United Nations have been included in this ranking. Data has been sourced from the CIA World Factbook (updated in January 2019) and the World Bank (updated in 2017). All countries have been ranked by median age.

As you might imagine, affluent countries with good infrastructure and social services, like Japan and Denmark, have older populations. Meanwhile, countries whose citizens live largely below the poverty line and have limited access to health care, like Chad and Senegal, have some of the world’s youngest populations.

Read on to learn which other factors increase life expectancy, and which ones are likely to chop your life short.

RELATED: Countries with the worst life expectancy

12019 // Pixabay

#25 oldest: Denmark

- Median age: 41.9
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.71

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that longer life spans were uniquely tied to better health care—a stunning 50% of the total gains in life expectancy were due to better health care. Denmark has one of the best health care systems in the world: Every resident receives free, state-funded health coverage for almost everything except non-essential cosmetic surgery and fertility treatments (after the third round). It seems safe to say that citizens of Denmark are able to live such long lives largely thanks to their country's health care program.

WikiImages // Pixabay

#25 youngest: Afghanistan

- Median age: 19
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 4.63

Afghanistan has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world. The country, which has been at war since 1979, has not only lost more than 1 million lives to the conflict, but also has limited electricity—according to the Huffington Post, only 6% of residents have access—limited access to safe drinking water, and poor sanitation. Afghanistan is also one of the largest opium suppliers in the world, and the violence that surrounds the drug trade makes the country notoriously unsafe. 

mark.watmough // Flickr

#24 oldest: Canada

- Median age: 42.4
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.6

A study done by the University College of London found that longer life expectancy can be tied to a greater sense of well-being. Well-being, which includes factors like having a sense of purpose and feeling in control of your life, doesn't necessarily have to be objectively provable—as long as someone genuinely feels satisfied with their life, that's enough. According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, Canadians ranked their life satisfaction at a 9.2 out of 10, higher than the world average of a 6.5. It's possible that the older-than-average age of their population is tied to this overall sense of happiness.

ValeriaRodrigues // Pixabay

#24 youngest: Guinea

- Median age: 19
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 4.86

Out of the top 10 leading causes of death in Guinea, nine are related to health. From influenza to tuberculosis to malaria and HIV/AIDS, the country's poor health care system isn't equipped to handle the needs of the country's nearly 12.4 million residents. In fact, 10 to 15% of citizens can't afford health care, and there is no public system in place that ensures they receive even the most basic medical attention.

narya // Pixabay

#23 oldest: Switzerland

- Median age: 42.5
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.54

Education is important in Switzerland: 87% of adults have completed upper secondary education, which is optional. A Harvard studylinked an increase in education to a longer life span, reporting that even a single year of college can lead to an extra 1.6 years of life. It's not necessarily the classroom learning that adds length to your years, but rather the elevation of your socioeconomic status through education. It may be the case in Switzerland that a focus on higher education is leading more people to live longer, increasing the country's median age.

12019 // Pixabay

#23 youngest: Senegal

- Median age: 19
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 4.77

In Senegal, 38.2% of the adult population is illiterate, and only about 73% of children are enrolled in primary school. The country's general approach to education means that many aren't able to advance their socioeconomic status in this manner. Many Senegalese aren't able to access life-saving health care, and more than 1 million households go without basics like electricity. Both of these factors are likely to contribute to a shorter life expectancy in Senegal.

Sarah_Loetscher // Pixabay

#22 oldest: Bosnia And Herzegovina

- Median age: 42.5
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.36

Bosnia and Herzegovina lies on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. The country is small in size, but its residents are close. Family ties are strong in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a major emphasis is placed on friendship and neighborhood communities. According to a Harvard Health study, the strength of these social relationships could be doing a lot in regards to the age of the country's population: People who have satisfying relationships with family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.

M. Hofer // Wikipedia Commons

#22 youngest: Democratic Republic of the Congo

- Median age: 18.8
- Fertility rate (births per woman): data not available

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has the lowest GDP per capita in the world: $600. Not only is the country extremely poor, which is directly linked to a shorter life span, but decades of war and violence have claimed the lives of more than 5 million individuals. Other things like a lack of education, a shortage of income-generating employment opportunities, and almost no health care are also believed to be major factors in the country's low median age.


#21 oldest: Finland

- Median age: 42.6
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.65

Finland is one of the best-educated countries in the world. A full 88% of adults have completed an upper secondary education. Better educations mean longer lifespans, both because education helps to elevate a person's socioeconomic status and because it prompts individuals to lead a healthier, less-risky lifestyle.

Chuck Moravec // Wikimedia Commons

#21 youngest: Sao Tome And Principe

- Median age: 18.7
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 4.46

A nation composed of two islands, Sao Tome And Principe has been categorized as a “least developed country.” It's primarily dependant on international aid, with half the country living below the poverty line, and 29% living in extreme poverty. This leaves many citizens without education, access to health care, drinkable water, or proper sanitation. With 44.4% of the country's population between the ages of 0 and 14, child trafficking and child labor are also major issues.

djedj // Pixabay

#20 oldest: Netherlands

- Median age: 42.7
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.66

Those who have visited the Netherlands know just how quintessential the bicycle is to this nation's way of life. Amsterdam alone is home to more than 1 million bicycles. Regular physical activity, which raises your heart rate over its resting rate, has been linked to longer life, according to the National Cancer Institute. So while biking isn't the only thing that enables those in the Netherlands to live longer, it certainly helps.

Mleveill // Pixabay

#20 youngest: Cameroon

- Median age: 18.6
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 4.71

According to a report by World Health Rankings, the leading cause of death in Cameroon is HIV/AIDS. As of 2017, there were half a million reported cases of AIDS, representing 3.7% of the country's population. A lack of education about the disease and medical treatment are both possible reasons HIV/AIDS remains so widespread and continues to cut lives short.

charlemagne // Pixabay

#19 oldest: Hungary

- Median age: 42.7
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.45

The OECD ranks Hungary as well below average in many of the factors it considers, like average income, employment, education, community, and health. But one place the country comes up above average is its work-life balance. While an improved work-life balance isn't linked directly to a longer life, it is linked to a lower rate of chronic stress—which can lead to things like hypertension and heart-related conditions—as well as fewer mental health afflictions, which can lead to suicide. One reason the median age is so high in Hungary could be that Hungarians are overall healthier than many other nations, thanks to their above-average work-life balance.

Cassandra_Dvl // Pixabay

#19 youngest: Benin

- Median age: 18.4
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 4.98

Poverty remains the biggest issue facing Benin today. While life in the country's main cities and urban areas has improved, those living in remote villages still struggle with a lack of electricity, poor sanitation, limited access to clean drinking water, and little to no basic medical care. These things could all be factors that contribute to the country's low median age of 18.4.

AstralniHorizonti // Pixabay

#18 oldest: Serbia

- Median age: 42.8
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.46

Neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia has had a difficult and war-torn past, but the median age in the country is still well above average. One possible reason for this is that, just like Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country places a strong emphasis on social and family ties as well as marriage. As discussed before, stronger relationships can improve overall health, leading to longer lives.

Raphealny // Pixabay

#18 youngest: Nigeria

- Median age: 18.3
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 5.53

Nigeria is the eighth most populated country in the world, with an estimated 196 million people calling this nation home. However, they also have one of the youngest populations in the world. Many factors contribute to this: Terror groups like Boko Haram, which killed 900 people in 2017, millions living below the poverty line, inadequate health care (HIV/AIDS and malaria are the two biggest concerns), air and water pollution, and malnutrition are the primary culprits.

idefixgallier // Pixabay

#17 oldest: Estonia

- Median age: 43
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.58

There are many factors in Estonia that seem as though they should have a negative effect on the country's average lifespan. For example, life satisfaction is low, overall health is down: 25% of Estonians are at risk of getting cancer before the age of 75, and income is just about half of what the OECD considers average. But one thing that saves them, and possibly contributes to their older median age, is their work-life balance, which ranks 7.7 out of 10.

Robbert van der Steeg // Wikipedia Commons

#17 youngest: Somalia

- Median age: 18.2
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 6.27

The Somali Civil War began in 1991, and has still yet to find a resolution. While some think it's getting closer—a 2017 election, albeit riddled with corruption and violence, was seen as a major stepping stone—others think there's still a way to go before reaching the end. An estimated 1 million Somalis have died as a result of the conflict, which is arguably the main reason for the country's young population.

Wengen // Pixabay

#16 oldest: Bulgaria

- Median age: 43
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.53

Genetics play an important role in life expectancy. Genes determine our susceptibility to diseases like cancer and diabetes. Bulgaria, adjacent to Greece and Turkey, has a well-below-average rate of cancer incidences and mortality, and only 7.9% of its population has diabetes—statistics that would seem to indicate that their strong genetics play a large part in the high median age in the country.

smahel // Pixabay

#16 youngest: South Sudan

- Median age: 18.1
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 4.86

South Sudan is the world's youngest state, having just established its independence from Sudan in 2011. The civil war that helped South Sudan gain independence is still ongoing, and many are losing their lives to violence. Little aid for humanitarian workers, and an increasing risk of famine, also keeps life expectancy short, lowering the country's median age to 18.1.

TRAVELKR // Pixabay

#15 oldest: Spain

- Median age: 43.1
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.33

Spain is well above average in two categories most directly linked to a longer life: community and happiness. General feelings of happiness tend to lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body and decrease overall inflammation. They also tend to be indicative of a person who has strong relationships and a sense of general well-being. So it's quite possible that the population in Spain lives longer simply because they're happier.

kcelsner // Pixabay

#15 youngest: Ethiopia

- Median age: 18
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 4.2

The political unrest currently taking place in Ethiopia may become responsible for the loss of many young lives. Historically, however, one of the main issues facing the country is malnutrition. Ethiopia's primary industry is agriculture, but factors like severe weather, inadequate equipment, and limited water have made it nearly impossible for most people to grow enough food to feed themselves and their families. The slow economy, as well as the number of people living under the poverty line, has also made it challenging to buy enough food, leaving many to die young.

fjaka // Pixabay

#14 oldest: Croatia

- Median age: 43.3
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.4

It's no secret that pollution has an effect on our lives. A new study shows that air pollution shortens lives by more than a year, and water scarcity and quality certainly have an effect on lives as well. Croatia has low levels of air pollution, and its water quality is generally high. 

combonianos_brasil // Pixabay

#14 youngest: Sudan

- Median age: 17.9
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 4.53

The Darfur genocide, in which Darfuris living in Sudan were murdered on the orders of the Sudanese government, began in 2003, resulting in the death of 400,000 Dafuris and displacing 3 million others. The fighting and political unrest that followed led to even more lost lives. All told, this may be part of the reason behind the country's young population.

sunflair // Pixabay

#13 oldest: Liechtenstein

- Median age: 43.4
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.4

Liechtenstein is a small German-speaking principality between Austria and Switzerland. Of all the European countries, Liechtenstein has one of the highest wage levels and one of the lowest unemployment levels. It's probable that this high income has something to do with life expectancy. Financial stress has been shown to lead to earlier deaths and more health problems, so it's fair to infer that those steering clear of added stress and all of its negative benefits are living longer in large part thanks to their financial security.

12019 // Pixabay

#13 youngest: Tanzania

- Median age: 17.9
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 5.02

Tanzania has become a major tourist destination over the past several years. But Tanzania also struggles with corruption in its government and elected leadership. This corruption has lead to tax avoidance, and not enough money is being contributed to the government to further develop social services and infrastructure. Deforestation also steals many jobs from villagers, and Tanzania suffers from mismanagement of resources, meaning much of the aid for poor villages never actually reaches them. All of these factors could be contributing to the shorter life expectancy in the country, especially for those who live below the poverty line.

Schmid-Reportagen // Pixabay

#12 oldest: Portugal

- Median age: 43.7
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.31

Portugal is another country with low pollution levels. Air pollution and water pollution here are both lower than average. Air pollution, in particular, has been linked to cardiorespiratory diseases and lung cancer. So it's logical that a country with less air pollution would have fewer cases of these diseases, and would be healthier overall, which would lead to an older median age of the population.

ValeriaRodrigues // Pixabay

#12 youngest: Guinea-Bissau

- Median age: 17.8
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 4.63

Guinea-Bissau is currently facing a host of environmental issues, many of which may contribute to the young median age in the country. Only 8.2% of the land is farmable, which has caused a food shortage, leaving 17% of the country's children underweight. Deforestation, overfishing, and soil erosion are other major problems the country faces, leaving many families under the poverty line and lacking sufficient nutrition.

680451 // Pixabay

#11 oldest: Latvia

- Median age: 43.9
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.7

Strong family ties are likely to be one of the major factors in the long life expectancy for Latvians. The University of Toronto's School of Public Health recently completed a study that demonstrated that the family relationship, more than any other relationship, was essential for adding years to your life—especially for older people. Those who listed family members (or spouses) as their closest confidants only had a 6% risk of dying over the next five years, while those who listed other people, like friends, had a 14% risk. The family is still the center of the social structure in Latvia, where multi-generational homes are common.

UNMEER // Flickr

#11 youngest: Liberia

- Median age: 17.8
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 4.58

As of 2018, Liberia is the poorest country on earth. With a GDP of $3.91 billion and a gross national income per person of $710, the country isn't able to allocate much money to its infrastructure or social services. A 14-year-long civil war made matters worse. Currently, 75% of Liberians live on $1 per day or less, meaning that many are suffering from malnutrition, have no access to basic health care, and have no piped water or electricity. All of these things are probable contributors to the short lifespan and young population in the country.

jackmac34 // Pixabay

#10 oldest: Lithuania

- Median age: 44
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.7

Out of all 28 countries in the E.U., Lithuania has the highest marriage rate. Interestingly, marriage was one of the first non-biological factors associated with a longer life. It turns out that married people take fewer health risks, have better physical and mental health, and have more emotional and material support. So it's possible that the high number of married couples in Lithuania is a contributing factor to the older median age.

RobertoVi // Pixabay

#10 youngest: Burkina Faso

- Median age: 17.4
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 5.35

Burkina Faso has never been considered a safe place to live, but in recent years the violence has gotten worse. More extremist religious groups have popped up in the area, and the uptick in terrorist attacks, combined with the major criminal networks that already plague the country have made this a place that the OSAC recommends foreigners don't visit. The levels of violence may be one reason the population is so young.

12019 // Pixabay

#9 oldest: Slovenia

- Median age: 44.2
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.57

Slovenia has two things going for it that may be major factors in the longer life expectancy of its citizens. First, their education system is highly ranked, and 87% of adults have completed upper secondary education. Second, Slovenians spend a lot of time outdoors: Hiking, biking, kayaking, and skiing are all common leisure activities, and this level of physical exercise most likely goes a long way into keeping them healthy.

jeanvdmeulen // Pixabay

#9 youngest: Mozambique

- Median age: 17.3
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 5.24

More than 2 million people in Mozambique were living with AIDS in 2017, with 70,000 deaths annually contributed to AIDS. For a country with a population of just over 31 million, this is a staggering ratio. It may also be a major reason that life expectancy and median age are so low in the country.

Julius_Silver // Pixabay

#8 oldest: Austria

- Median age: 44.2
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.49

Austria has a reputation for being a relaxed country. Work is not a top priority here, and while most people are employed, many businesses close early and for long stretches of time in the summer, providing a great work-life balance. Austrians also walk and bike most places they go, rather than relying on cars, which keeps them physically fit. Finally, Austrians report an above-average level of life satisfaction, which has been linked to longer lives.

quentcourtois0 // Pixabay

#8 youngest: Burundi

- Median age: 17.1
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 5.7

The Burundi civil war lasted from 1993 to 2006. It is estimated that 300,000 were killed during the conflict and an additional 1.2 million more were displaced. This alone lowered the median age in the country by a significant amount. Additionally, three-quarters of the population live in poverty, relying on international aid groups for housing, jobs, and medical care. New rules requiring a certain ethnic balance in these aid groups have many pulling out of the country, meaning that it's likely the median age here will continue to drop.

yahoo19 // Pixabay

#7 oldest: San Marino

- Median age: 44.7
- Fertility rate (births per woman): data not available

Officially considered a “microstate,” San Marino is surrounded on all sides by Italy. As you might guess, the food is delicious and could be the reason Sammarinese are living so long. Their diet is largely Mediterranean, relying on olive oil, fish, vegetables, and whole grains for nutrition. 

Moffatt // Pixabay

#7 youngest: Zambia

- Median age: 16.8
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 4.98

A land-locked country in sub-Saharan Africa, Zambia is home to 14 million people and surrounded by other countries on this list: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angloa, and Zimbabwe. This country is a poor one, with 64% of the population living on a dollar a day or less. The extreme level of poverty leads to other things, like the fact that 14% of the population has HIV and no access to medical treatment, and 40% don't have access to clean water. Both of these factors may be reasons that the country's median age is 16.8.

IvanPais // Pixabay

#6 oldest: Greece

- Median age: 44.9
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.33

Studies have shown that following a Mediterranean diet can help you live longer. Diets that are low in meat and dairy, high in fruits and vegetables, and low in refined carbs can keep life-threatening medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease at bay, adding a year or more to your life. The study found that this was especially true of those living in Greece, as they follow the Mediterranean diet closely. This could be a leading reason that the median age in this country is so high.

nike159 // Pixabay

#6 youngest: Malawi

- Median age: 16.6
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 4.57

Malawi is one of the smallest countries in Africa, with one of the highest populations. An estimated 18 million people live here, but only 1 in 10 has access to clean water. Severe flooding in 2015 contaminated many of the trusted water sources, and insufficient infrastructure as well as a series of droughts have made it difficult to fix the problem. The lack of drinkable water may be a factor in Malawi's limited life expectancy.

geertwillemarck // Pixabay

#5 oldest: Andorra

- Median age: 44.9
- Fertility rate (births per woman): data not available

Andorra is a small principality situated between France and Spain, that's primarily known for its ski resorts. It's also a perfect blend of nearly all of the major contributing factors of longevity. The health care system is outstanding, wages are higher than average (which correlates to an increased socioeconomic status and healthier habits), the air is free of pollution, the water is clean, and the country places a large value on education. In fact, students boast a 100% literacy rate, as education is free, of high quality, and easily accessible.

Alfred Weidinger // Pixabay

#5 youngest: Angola

- Median age: 15.9
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 5.69

Angola spent three decades in civil war. While the war officially ended in 2002, many of the effects still linger. For example, malnutrition for both children and adults is a major concern in the country. The lack of proper nutrition and the sheer amount of deaths caused by lack of food is likely one of the leading factors in the short life expectancy for residents.

bloomingmimosa // Pixabay

#4 oldest: Italy

- Median age: 45.8
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.35

As of 2016, the average household income in Italy was 30,595 euros (around $34,681), making Italy a notably wealthy nation as a whole. Wealth has been tied to increased longevity, primarily because it indicates better health and nutrition literacy, and access to better nutrition. One reason Italy's life expectancy and median age is so high could be their relative wealth, and the quality of life that provides.

adamneil // Pixabay

#4 youngest: Uganda

- Median age: 15.9
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 5.59

Uganda is a quickly developing country: It now ranks eighth out of 47 countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region for economic freedom, above-average for the area, but still below average world wide. However, the nation still struggles with education; partially due to the large refugee population and to the lack of educational funding. Only 73.8% of adults are literate, and fewer than 25% of children move on to secondary school after completing primary school. A lack of education, which keeps them from moving upwards in the socioeconomic strata, may be a large factor in the country's young population.

derwiki // Pixabay

#3 oldest: Germany

- Median age: 47.4
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.5

Seventy-two percent of Germans qualify as middle-class while 75% between the ages of 15–64 are employed. Additionally, 86% of adults have completed upper secondary education and 92% of people believe they have someone they could rely on in a time of need. This means that most Germans are educated, relatively wealthy, receive quality health care, and have strong friendships and relationships. All of these are likely reasons that the country has one of the oldest populations in the world.

EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operation // Flickr

#3 youngest: Chad

- Median age: 15.8
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 5.95

Ever since establishing its independence as its own country in 1960, Chad has been in a perpetual state of unrest. In 2005, the country fell into its fourth civil war, largely thanks to the conflict taking place in neighboring Sudan. With nearly 60 years of continuous conflict affecting its history, it's little wonder that the median age of its citizens is only 15.8. Between lives lost to fighting and violence, and those lost to the other ravages of war like famine and disease, life expectancy in the country has yet to improve.

Sean K // Shutterstock

#2 oldest: Japan

- Median age: 47.7
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 1.44

Plenty of studies have been done on the negative effects of Japan's work culture, which is considered extreme at best. And while it seems that the added stress and poor work-life balance would make lives shorter, Japanese people actually have the second-longest longevity rate in the world. Two things may account for this: the traditional Japanese diet, which contains lots of vegetables, fish, and few processed foods, and the emphasis placed on education—99% of Japanese adults are literate, and Japan has the second-best education system in the world.

Rgaudin // Wikipedia Commons

#2 youngest: Mali

- Median age: 15.8
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 6.06

Mali has been in the midst of a major political crisis since 2012. Ethnic violence and differences between religious extremist groups have been the main instigators of the civil-war-like conflict. War shortens life expectancy, but new research shows that survivors' life expectancy may be shorter as well. Post-traumatic stress disorder has been linked to faster aging and earlier death; in fact, researchers found that PTSD increased the risk of dying by 29%. This could be one of the factors accounting for the young population in Mali.

12019 // Pixabay

#1 oldest: Monaco

- Median age: 53.8
- Fertility rate (births per woman): data not available

The country with the oldest population in the world is Monaco. A sovereign city-state on the French Riviera, one in every three people living in the country are considered millionaires. Their taxes help support a top-notch health care system, featuring hospitals and clinics with the most modern technology available, and safe water and sanitation for all citizens. 

Creative Commons // Wikipedia Commons

#1 youngest: Niger

- Median age: 15.5
- Fertility rate (births per woman): 7.24

Niger is the youngest country in the world, with a median age of 15.5. There are hundreds of different factors that contribute to this fact, but one could be the number of average births per woman. The highest on this list, women in Niger have 7.24 children ... each. Scientists have discovered that women who have given birth have biologically older cells. The high number of births may be aging women prematurely, causing them to die sooner.

2018 All rights reserved.