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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2004  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/02/2004   
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Contents >> Population >> Deaths

In 2001, 128,540 deaths (66,830 males and 61,710 females) were registered in Australia, approximately 250 more than were registered in 2000 (128,290). Since 1981 the number of deaths has increased by an average of 0.8% per year. The steady increase in the number of deaths over time reflects the increasing size of the population and, in particular, the increasing number of older people. With the continued ageing of the population the number of deaths will continue to rise, with deaths projected to outnumber births sometime in the 2030s.

Despite the ageing of the population over the last 20 years, deaths rates have continued to decline. The crude death rate (CDR) fell from 7.3 deaths per 1,000 population in 1981 to 6.6 deaths per 1,000 in 2001. The fall in CDR, against the background of an older population, indicates the considerable decline in age-specific death rates over the period. The standardised death rate (which removes the effect of the changing age structure of the population) was 5.4 deaths per 1,000 population in 2001, down by 5% since 2000 (5.7 deaths) and down by 36% since 1981 (8.4 deaths).

There were 2,060 deaths registered in Australia in 2001 where the deceased person was identified as being of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or both origins (Indigenous), a decrease of around 60 deaths (3%) on the number registered in 2000. It is considered likely that most Indigenous deaths are registered but a proportion of these deaths are not identified as ‘Indigenous’.

Life expectancy

Life expectancy refers to the average number of additional years a person of a given age and sex might expect to live if the age-specific death rates of the given period continued throughout his or her remaining lifetime.

Over the past century, the average life expectancy of a new-born boy has increased from 55 years in 1901-10 to 77 years in 1999-2001. Likewise, the average life expectancy of a new-born girl has increased from 59 to 82 years during the same period (graph 5.28). These represent an increase of 22 years for boys and 24 years for girls. The increase in life expectancy at birth is due to lower death rates at all ages.

Differences in Indigenous and total mortality are reflected in substantially lower life expectancy for the Indigenous population. At the national level, life expectancy at birth for the period 1999-2001 was estimated to be about 56 years for Indigenous males and 63 years for Indigenous females (including an adjustment for the estimated under-coverage of Indigenous deaths). This compares to life expectancy at birth of 77 years for total males, and 82 years for total females. Australia's Indigenous peoples have a substantially younger age profile than the total population but life expectancy at birth accounts for this difference.

The reduction in mortality in the early part of the 20th century has been attributed to improvements in living conditions, such as better water supply, sewerage systems, food quality and health education. The continuing reduction in mortality in the latter half of last century has been attributed to improving social conditions, and to advances in medical technology such as mass immunisation and antibiotics.

The past two decades in particular have seen further increases in life expectancy. These increases are due in part to lower infant mortality, fewer deaths among young adults from motor vehicle accidents and fewer deaths among older men from heart disease. The reduction in the number of deaths from heart disease has been related to behavioural changes, such as dietary improvements and reduced smoking.

During the 20th century the life expectancy of new-born girls was consistently higher than that of new-born boys. Up until the early-1930s, a new-born girl had a life expectancy approximately four years greater than that of a new-born boy, with this difference peaking at about seven years in the 1970s and early-1980s, largely due to significant declines in heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease mortality among women, combined with a slight decline in male life expectancy from accidents among males aged 15-24 years and from heart disease among 45-84 year old males. In recent years, the gap in life expectancy between new-born men and women has narrowed to about five years (5.4 years in 1999-2001). This can be attributed to the large reductions in death rates of males aged 45 years and over, and particularly to the reduction in heart disease deaths among males.

The increase in life expectancy for older persons has implications for retirement planning and income policies. Life expectancy of 65 year olds has increased from 14 years for males and 18 years for females in 1981, to 17 years for males and 21 years for females in 1999-2001.

Graph - 5.28 Life expectancy at birth



Australians have a life expectancy at birth which compares well with that experienced in other developed nations. Among the countries shown in table 5.29, the life expectancy at birth of Australian males and females (77 and 82 years respectively) was exceeded only by that in Japan (both males and females), Hong Kong (SAR of China) (both males and females) and France (females). The life expectancy of new-born babies in Australia was higher than in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America.


5.29 LIFE EXPECTANCY AT BIRTH, Selected countries - 2000-05

Males
Females
years
years

Australia(a)
77.0
82.4
Canada
76.7
81.9
China (excl. SARs & Taiwan Prov.)
68.9
73.3
France
75.2
82.8
Germany
75.2
81.2
Hong Kong (SAR of China)
77.3
82.8
India
63.2
64.6
Indonesia
64.8
68.8
Italy
75.5
81.9
Japan
77.9
85.1
Korea, Republic of (South)
71.8
79.3
Netherlands
75.6
81.0
New Zealand
75.8
80.7
Papua New Guinea
56.8
58.7
Singapore
75.9
80.3
United Kingdom
75.7
80.7
United States of America
74.3
79.9

(a) Reference period for Australia is 1999-2001.
Source: Deaths, Australia (3302.0); United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Statistics Division, 2003 web site.

A life table is a statistical model that is constructed from the death rates of a population at different ages. It is frequently used to express death in terms of the probability of dying. In its simplest form, a life table is generated from age-specific death rates and the resulting values are used to measure mortality, survivorship and life expectancy. Table 5.30 shows the expectations of life at specific ages for Australian males and females. The figures have been obtained from ABS life tables based on demographic characteristics of the Australian population for the period 1999-2001.


5.30 EXPECTATION OF LIFE

Males
Females
At exact age (years)
years
years

0
77.03
82.41
10
67.63
72.93
20
57.90
63.06
30
48.54
53.30
40
39.14
43.60
50
29.88
34.11
60
21.17
25.02
70
13.59
16.62
80
7.76
9.54
90
4.23
4.80
100
3.17
2.72

Source: Deaths, Australia (3302.0).

Table 5.31 brings together summary measures of mortality for census years between 1901 and 1986, and individual years between 1991 and 2001.


5.31 SELECTED SUMMARY MEASURES OF MORTALITY

Life expectancy at birth(a)

Registered deaths
Crude death
Infant mortality
Males
Females
Year ended 31 December
no.
rate(b)
rate(c)
years
years

1901
46,330
12.2
103.6
55.2
58.8
1921
54,076
9.9
65.7
59.2
63.3
1933
59,117
8.9
39.5
63.5
67.1
1947
73,468
9.7
28.5
66.1
70.6
1954
81,805
9.1
22.5
67.1
72.8
1961
88,961
8.5
19.5
67.9
74.2
1966
103,929
9.0
18.7
67.6
74.2
1971
110,650
8.5
17.3
68.3
74.8
1976
112,662
8.0
13.8
69.4
76.4
1981
109,003
7.3
10.0
71.4
78.4
1986
114,981
7.2
8.8
72.9
79.2
1991
119,146
6.9
7.1
74.4
80.4
1992
123,660
7.1
7.0
74.5
80.4
1993
121,599
6.9
6.1
75.0
80.9
1994
126,692
7.1
5.9
75.0
80.9
1995
125,133
6.9
5.7
75.5
81.1
1996
128,719
7.0
5.8
75.5
81.3
1997
129,350
7.0
5.3
75.9
81.4
1998
127,202
6.8
5.0
76.3
81.8
1999
128,102
6.8
5.7
76.6
82.0
2000
128,291
6.7
5.2
77.1
82.3
2001
128,544
6.6
5.3
77.5
82.6

(a) Data for 1901 are based on the period 1901-10. Data for 1921-66 are based on three-year averages, with the year shown being the midpoint of the range. Data for 1971 onwards are based on individual years.
(b) Per 1,000 population.
(c) Per 1,000 live births.
Source: Australian Demographic Trends (3102.0); Deaths, Australia (3302.0) ABS data available on request, Deaths Registration Collection.



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