The good news is that worldwide, life expectancy is on the rise for women. The not-so-good news is that most of the gains have only been seen in wealthier countries.  

According to the World Health Organization or WHO, life expectancy for women age 50 and older has improved on a global scale, but the gap between poor and rich countries is growing and could worsen without intervention.  

The new study was one of the first to look at the causes of death for older women. Researchers found that around the world, the most common causes of death after age 50 are cancer, heart disease and stroke. In wealthier countries, lots of progress has been made in terms prevention and treatment for these diseases. Fewer women aged 50 years and older in rich countries are dying from these diseases now than 30 years ago, and these improvements contributed most to increasing women's life expectancy at the age of 50.

But women in poorer countries are not benefiting from this progress. An older woman in Germany can now expect to live to 84; in Japan, expectancy is 88 years. In Mexico, life expectancy for women drops to 80.  In South Africa, it's 73.

"The gap in life expectancy between such women in rich and poor countries is growing," according to the WHO study. There is a similar growing gap between the life expectancy of men over 50 in rich and poorer countries. 

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