Thursday, October 27, 2016

I've got how long? Life expectancy hits new high

Life expectancy has hit a new high, with typical newborn girls now expected to live to 84.5 and boys to 80.4, up from 83.3 and 78.5 a decade ago.

New life tables from the Bureau of Statistics show a typical 30-year-old woman can expect another 55 years, with a further 36 years for a 50-year-old, 18 for a 70-year-old, and 2.4 for a typical 100-year-old.

For men, a typical 30-year-old will get another 51 years, with 32 years for a 50-year-old, 15.6 for a 70-year-old, and 2.2 for a typical 100-year-old.

Men at the traditional retirement age of 65 have another 19.5 years. Fifty years ago in 1966, they had only 12 years. Women at 65 have another 22.3 years. Fifty years ago they had 15.7.

The Australian Capital Territory has the highest life expectancy of 85.3 for newborn girls and 81.2 for boys, followed by Victoria at 84.7 and 81.1. The Northern Territory has the lowest, of 78.5 for girls and 75.7 for boys. Tasmania is the second lowest at 82.8 and 78.9. 

Indigenous life expectancies at birth are 9.5 years lower for girls and  10.6 years lower for boys.

But the reality is less grim. Academic demographers believe the ABS figures are almost certainly underestimates.

Peter McDonald, of the University of Melbourne, says they assume no improvements over the course of a life.

"They are not any individual's lifetime; they are just telling you the expectation of life you would get if life expectancy didn't change," he said. "And for the last 200 years it has been going up."

The ABS itself says the figures it quotes for life expectancies at birth are the average number of years that a group of newborn babies would be expected to live "if current death rates remain unchanged".

Professor McDonald said a rule of thumb was that improvements over an 85 or 81 year life would add anther four  years. That means a typical newborn girl might live to 88 and a typical boy to 85, unless improvements stop or accelerate.

In The Age and Sydney Morning Herald