MORTALITY CONTINUES TO DECLINE
The Australian death rate continued to decline in 2001. The age-standardised death rate is down by 5% since 2000 and 36% since 1981. There were 128,540 deaths registered in Australia in 2001, approximately 250 more than the number registered in 2000 (128,290).
Over the past 20 years there has been a sustained decline in death rate for all states and territories. The highest age-standardised death rate in 2001 was in the Northern Territory and the lowest was in the Australian Capital Territory.
LIFE EXPECTANCY CONTINUES TO INCREASE
Life expectancy at birth continued to increase, reflecting the general decrease in death rates. A boy born in 1999-2001 could expect to live 77.0 years, while a girl could expect to live 82.4 years. Since 1981 life expectancy at birth has increased by 6 years for males and 4 years for females.
Internationally, Australia's life expectancy at birth for males ranks behind Japan (78 years), beside Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Sweden (each 77 years), and is above that of New Zealand (76 years), the United Kingdom (75 years) and the United States of America (74 years).
Australia's life expectancy at birth for females is similar to Hong Kong and Sweden (each 82 years). It falls behind Japan (85 years), France, Spain and Switzerland (each 83 years), and is above Canada, Greece and New Zealand (each 81 years), the United Kingdom and the United States of America (each 80 years).
Male life expectancy at birth was highest in the Australian Capital Territory (78 years), while female life expectancy at birth was highest in the Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia (both 83 years). The lowest life expectancy was in the Northern Territory where a boy born in 2001 could expect to live an average of 71 years, and a girl, 76 years.
In 1999-2001 life expectancy at birth for males and females varied across the regions of Australia by up to 11 years. Male life expectancy at birth was highest in Canberra (79 years) followed by Outer Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth (each 78 years), while female life expectancy at birth was highest at 83 years in Moreton (Queensland), Perth, Canberra, Melbourne and South-West (Western Australia).
Male life expectancy at birth was lowest in the balance of the Northern Territory (68 years) followed by the Kimberley (70 years), and North-West Queensland (71 years). Female life expectancy was lowest in the balance of the Northern Territory (73 years), the Kimberley (78 years), and North-West Queensland (78 years).
VARIATIONS IN MORTALITY
The 2001 infant mortality rate was 5.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, an increase of 2% from 2000, but a decrease of 47% since 1981. In 2001, over one-third (39%) of all infant deaths occurred within one day of birth.
Overall, the age-standardised death rate for males was 58% higher than the female rate. The greatest difference in age-specific death rates occurred in the 15-19 years age group where the male death rate was over three times higher than the female death rate.
Males and females who had never married had age-standardised death rates of almost twice those of their married counterparts.
There were 2,100 deaths registered in 2001 where the deceased person was identified as being of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or both origins (Indigenous). Overall the Indigenous population had age-standardised death rates at least twice as high as the total population.
The 2001 infant mortality rate for Indigenous Australians (10.6 deaths per 1,000 live births) was over twice the infant mortality rate for all Australians (5.3).
The median age at death for Indigenous people in 2001 was 54 years, around 24 years less than the median age for all deaths (79 years).
Indigenous life expectancy at birth was about 20 years less than for the total population, 56 years for Indigenous males compared to 77 years for all Australian males and 63 years for Indigenous females compared to 82 years for all Australian females. Experimental life tables of Indigenous people is presented in Appendix 1.
The life expectancy of Indigenous people in both New Zealand and the United States of America is higher than for Indigenous Australians, and the difference to the total population is not as great as in Australia. In 1995-1997 the New Zealand Maori population had a life expectancy at birth of 67 years for males and 72 years for females, 7 years lower than for the total male population and 8 years lower than the total female population. In 1996-1998 the American Indian and Alaska Native population of the United States of America had a life expectancy at birth of 67 years for males and 74 years for females, 6 years lower than for the total male population and 5 years lower than the total female population.
CAUSES OF DEATH
During the last decade, IHD and cancer remained the two leading causes of death. In recent years cancer has overtaken IHD as the leading cause of death for both men and women. This has been the result of the long-term downward trend in the standardised death rate for IHD, declining by 59% for males and 53% for females from 1981 to 2001. Over the same period the standardised death rate for malignant neoplasms declined by just 13% for males and 6% for females.
In 2001, malignant neoplasms was the leading cause of death, accounting for 36,800 deaths or 29% of all deaths. IHD was the second leading cause of death, contributing 26,200 deaths or 20% of all deaths. Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke) contributed 9% of all deaths while chronic lower respiratory diseases contributed 5% of all deaths.