- + Key points: Life expectancy
• Life expectancy in NSW continues to increase. In 2012:
• newborn males could expect to live for 80.8 years, while newborn females could expect to live for 85.2 years
• although females can still expect to live longer than males, the gap between the sexes is narrowing.
- + Background: Life expectancy
Life expectancy at birth
Life expectancy at birth is an estimate of the average length of time (in years) that a person can expect to live, assuming that the current rates of death for each age group will remain the same for the lifespan of that person. Life expectancy at birth is influenced by many factors including socioeconomic status, genetic factors, biomedical risk factors, the quality of the health system, including preventive health, and the ability of people to access health care.
Death rates will almost certainly change over the lifetime of a person born now, due to changes in social and economic conditions, changes in lifestyle, advances in health care, and possibly the emergence of new diseases. However, because no-one knows what the death rates for each age group and sex will be in the future, the usual practice is to use the current rates of death to calculate life expectancy (AIHW 2010).
Life expectancy at 65 years
Life expectancy at 65 years of age is an estimate of the average age at death for someone who turns 65 years old in a given year, assuming that death rates prevailing in that year continue unchanged. Death rates do generally change but this assumption is more reasonable for a 65 year-old than for someone just born, because the maximum additional life span for someone aged 65 is much shorter.
Life expectancy at age 65 years is influenced by lifestyle and nutritional and environmental factors, as well as access to and the quality of contemporary health services (OECD 2010).
At older ages women can still expect to live longer than men of the same age, but the difference is smaller than the difference in life expectancy at birth between the sexes. This reflects the fact that males are at greater risk than women of dying before they reach advanced age, primarily from injury, suicide and cardiovascular disease.
Life expectancy in NSW and Australia
The Australian population has one of the highest life expectancies in the world. Life expectancy for males and females in NSW is usually very close to the figure for Australia as a whole.
Life expectancy at birth was 82.3 years for both sexes combined (80.1 years in males and 84.5 in females) in NSW in 2011. Life expectancy at 65 years of age was 84.0 years in males and 87.2 in females in NSW in 2007. Refer to the Methods tab for more information on differences between sources and methods of calculating life expectancy.
Life expectancy at birth in NSW figures improved by more than 9 years in the last 35 years and by about year and a half in the previous decade.
Differences between socioeconomic groups in NSW
In NSW life expectancy has increased at different rates across socioeconomic groups, resulting in an increasing discrepancy between the highest SES group and the rest of the population in the last decade.
In Victoria, Australia, using similar calculation methods to NSW, the gap in life expectancy at birth between the highest and lowest SES groups narrowed for both males and females in the period between 1996 and 1999 (Magnus et al. 2001 ). Similar, preliminary results were reported in England and Wales (Office of National Statistics 2007).
Differences in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations
Aboriginal people have a much shorter life expectancy than non-Aboriginal people. In 2010-12, life expectancy in NSW was estimated to be 70.5 years in Aboriginal males and 74.6 years in Aboriginal females, almost 10 years lower than in males and females in the general population (ABS 3302.0.55.003 2013).
Australian Bureau of Statistics. Life tables for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2010-2012. 3302.0.55.003. Canberra: ABS, 2013. Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/3302.0.55.0032010-2012?OpenDocument
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Life expectancy. AIHW. Cited on 9 November 2010. Available at: http://www.aihw.gov.au/mortality/life_expectancy/index.cfm
Magnus A, Vos T and Begg S. "Improvement in the life expectancy of Victorians". Health of Victorians. The Chief Health Officer's Bulletin 2001. Vol. 1 (1): 16-19.
Office of National Statistics. Trends in life expectancy by social class, 1972-2005. London: UK Office of National Statistics, 2007. Available at: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/health-ineq/health-inequalities/trends-in-life-expectancy-by-social-class-1972-2005/index.html
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Health at a glance 2009. Statistics. OECD. (Last updated 8 December 2009. Cited November 2010). Available at: http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/content/book/health_glance-2009-en
- + Interventions: Life expectancy
Longer life expectancy mainly results from reduced deaths in infancy, better treatment for common diseases which extend lives and a healthier older population. Health strategies in all of these areas are necessary to improve life expectancy in all age cohorts in a population, throughout the socioeconomic strata and in Indigenous and ethnic groups.