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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2002  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/01/2002   
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Contents >> Population >> Deaths

Over the past century, the average life expectancy of a new-born boy has increased from 55.2 years in 1901-10 to 76.2 years in 1997-99. Likewise, the average life expectancy of a new-born girl has increased from 58.8 to 81.8 years during the same period (graph 5.25). These represent an increase of 21 years for boys and 23 years for girls. The increase in life expectancy is due to lower death rates at all ages.

The reduction in mortality in the early part of this century has been attributed to improvements in living conditions, such as better water supply, sewage systems, food quality and health education. The continuing reduction in mortality in the latter half of the 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 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 males and females has narrowed to about six years (5.6 years in 1997-99). 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.





Australians have an average life expectancy which compares well with that experienced in other developed nations. Among the countries shown in table 5.26, the life expectancy at birth of Australian males and females (76 and 82 years respectively) was exceeded only by that in Japan (both males and females) and France (females), and matched by Canada. The life expectancy of new-born babies in Australia was higher than in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

5.26 LIFE EXPECTANCY AT BIRTH, Selected Countries - 1998

Country
Males

years
Females

years

Australia(a)
76.2
81.8
Canada
76.2
81.9
China
68.1
72.3
France
74.4
82.1
Germany
74.1
80.3
Hong Kong (SAR of China)
76.0
81.5
India
62.5
63.3
Indonesia
63.7
67.5
Italy
75.2
81.3
Japan
76.9
83.0
Korea, Republic of
69.0
76.2
Netherlands
75.1
80.8
New Zealand
74.3
79.9
Papua New Guinea
57.6
59.1
Singapore
75.1
79.5
United Kingdom
74.7
80.0
United States of America
73.5
80.2

(a) Reference period for Australia is 1996–98.

Source: Deaths, Australia (3302.0); Human Development Report 2000 (United Nations Development Programme).

The standardised death rate removes the effect of different age structures of the population, and allows a more meaningful comparison of the death rates of different sub-populations. Over the past 20 years, standardised death rates for Australia and all States and Territories have decreased by about one-third (table 5.27).

Of the States and Territories, the Northern Territory has had the highest standardised death rate in the country for the last two decades. This can largely be attributed to high death rates among the Indigenous population. The Northern Territory, however, experienced the greatest improvement in mortality during the 20-year period, with its standardised death rate decreasing by around five persons per thousand population, compared to around three persons for Australia overall.

5.27 STANDARDISED DEATH RATES(a)

1979
1989
1999
State/Territory
Males
Females
Persons
Males
Females
Persons
Males
Females
Persons

New South Wales
11.4
6.7
8.7
10.1
6.0
7.8
7.6
4.6
5.9
Victoria
11.4
6.6
8.7
9.6
5.9
7.5
7.1
4.5
5.7
Queensland
11.2
6.6
8.7
9.9
5.9
7.7
7.5
4.8
6.0
South Australia
10.9
6.3
8.3
9.7
5.7
7.4
7.2
4.4
5.7
Western Australia
11.0
6.5
8.5
8.9
5.4
6.9
7.3
4.4
5.7
Tasmania
11.8
6.8
9.0
9.8
6.6
8.1
8.2
5.2
6.5
Northern Territory
16.3
11.8
14.0
12.8
9.0
11.0
9.6
7.7
8.7
Australian Capital Territory
10.4
5.6
7.5
8.0
5.1
6.4
6.5
4.5
5.4
Australia
11.3
6.6
8.6
9.8
5.9
7.6
7.4
4.6
5.9

(a) Deaths per 1,000 standard population. The standard population used is the June 1991 population.

Source: Deaths, Australia (3302.0).


Table 5.28 brings together summary measures of mortality for Census years between 1901 and 1986, and individual years between 1990 and 1999.

5.28 SELECTED SUMMARY MEASURES OF MORTALITY

Life expectancy at birth

Year ended 31 December
Registered deaths

no.
Crude
death
rate(a)
Infant
mortality
rate(b)
Males

years
Females

years

1901(c)
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
1990
120,062
7.0
8.2
73.9
80.1
1991
119,146
6.9
7.1
74.4
80.3
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
75.4
81.1
1996
128,719
7.0
5.8
75.5
81.3
1997
129,350
7.0
5.3
75.6
81.3
1998
127,202
6.8
5.0
75.9
81.5
1999
128,102
6.8
5.7
76.2
81.8

(a) Per 1,000 population.
(b) Per 1,000 live births.
(c) Based on deaths data for the period 1901 to 1910.

Source: Australian Demographic Trends (3102.0); Deaths, Australia (3302.0).


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