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How long are you hoping to live? Look what’s happened to life expectancy in Australia - featured image
By Michael Yardney

How long are you hoping to live? Look what’s happened to life expectancy in Australia

Australia enjoys one of the highest life expectancies is in the world.

And the good news is life expectancy in Australia continues to rise, with a baby boy expected to live to 81.2 years and a girl to 85.3 years, according to the latest figures released from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). People

"Babies born today have the highest estimated life expectancy ever recorded in Australia", ABS Demography Director Beidar Cho said.

Male life expectancy at birth reached 81.2 years in 2018-2020, increasing from 80.9 in 2017-2019.

Female life expectancy also increased to 85.3 years from 85.0 in the previous year. ­

Life expectancy for males has improved at a faster rate than that for females.

Around 30 years ago (1990), life expectancy at birth in Australia was 73.9 years for males and 80.1 years for females, a gap of 6.2 years.

The gap has now narrowed to 4.1 years in 2018-2020.

Ms. Cho said:-

"Australians have a higher life expectancy than comparable countries such as New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the USA and lower life expectancy than Japan, Singapore and Switzerland"

Today an Australian male aged 50 years can expect to live another 33.2 years, and a female another 36.6 years.

This is longer than life expectancies at birth, as 50 year olds have successfully made it through the first several decades of life.

The Australian Capital Territory recorded the highest male and female life expectancy (82.1 years and 85.9 years).

The Northern Territory recorded the lowest life expectancy for both males (76.2 years) and females (81.0 years).

Despite this, male and female life expectancies in the Northern Territory showed the largest gains of all the states and territories over the last 30 years (9.9 years and 8.7 years).

Life Expectancy

In recent years, life expectancy for males has improved at a faster rate than that for females.

  • Over the past decade, life expectancy for males increased by 1.7 years and females by 1.3 years
  • Around 30 years ago (1990), life expectancy at birth in Australia was 73.9 years for males and 80.1 years for females, a gap of 6.2 years
  • The gap has now narrowed to 4.1 years in 2018-20

It’s important to understand how the ABS calculate life expectancy: Life expectancy at birth estimates represent the average number of years that a newborn baby could expect to live, assuming current age-specific death rates are experienced through his/her lifetime.

Reasons for improvements in life expectancy include:

  • improved health services
  • safer working environments
  • medical and technological advances

States and territories

Life expectancy at birth was:

  • highest for both males (82.1 years) and females (85.9 years) in the Australian Capital Territory
  • lowest for both males (76.2 years) and females (81.0 years) in the Northern Territory, 5.0 years and 4.3 years lower than for Australian males and females
Life expectancy at birth by state and territory of usual residence
2008-2010 2018-2020 Change over 10 years
State or territory Males Females Males Females Males Females
NSW 79.6 84.1 81.2 85.4 1.6 1.3
Vic. 80 84.3 81.9 85.8 1.9 1.5
Qld 79.4 83.9 80.6 85.1 1.2 1.2
SA 79.4 83.8 80.7 85.2 1.3 1.4
WA 79.7 84.3 81.3 85.7 1.6 1.4
Tas. 78 82.3 79.9 84.3 1.9 2
NT 74 79.2 76.2 81 2.2 1.8
ACT 80.5 84.7 82.1 85.9 1.6 1.2
Aust.(a) 79.5 84 81.2 85.3 1.7 1.3

a. Includes Other Territories.

International comparison

  • Australia has the sixth-highest male and female combined life expectancy in the world
  • Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Spain, and Italy have higher life expectancies than Australia
  • Australia's male life expectancy ranked fifth and female eighth in the world
Life expectancy at birth, top 10 countries in the world(a), United Nations 2019
Country Persons (years)
  Males (years)   Females (years)
Japan 84.63 (rank 1) 81.50 (rank 4) 87.67 (rank 1)
Switzerland 83.78 (rank 2) 81.87 (rank 1) 85.60 (rank 5)
Singapore 83.62 (rank 3) 81.53 (rank 2) 85.73 (rank 4)
Spain 83.57 (rank 4) 80.83 (rank 10) 86.25 (rank 2)
Italy 83.51 (rank 5) 81.33 (rank 7) 85.54 (rank 6)
Australia 83.44 (rank 6) 81.49 (rank 5) 85.40 (rank 8)
Channel Islands 83.09 (rank 7) 81.17 (rank 8) 84.92 (rank 9)
Republic of Korea 83.03 (rank 8) 79.94 (rank 18) 85.95 (rank 3)
Iceland 82.99 (rank 9) 81.50 (rank 3) 84.49 (rank 15)
Israel 82.97 (rank 10) 81.33 (rank 6) 84.51 (rank 14)
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Life tables 2018 – 2020

So we’re actually 5th worldwide for male life expectancy and 8th for females. I knew Japan was the longest-lived nation, but what surprised me here is that this is entirely based on their very long female life expectancy, 1.4 years longer than the closest country (Spain). For male life expectancy, Australia is approximately equal to Japan.

This is all really good news. We’re living a bit longer every year.

Source: Australia Bureau of Statistics

ALSO READ: These countries are aging the fastest – here’s what it will mean

About Michael Yardney Michael is a director of Metropole Property Strategists who help their clients grow, protect and pass on their wealth through independent, unbiased property advice and advocacy. He's once again been voted Australia's leading property investment adviser and one of Australia's 50 most influential Thought Leaders. His opinions are regularly featured in the media.
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