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1370.0.55.001 - Measures of Australia's Progress: Summary Indicators, 2011  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 06/10/2011   
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Health

Graph Image for Life expectancy at birth

Good health directly, and indirectly, improves the wellbeing of individuals and the broader community. For an individual, good health means a life free of the burdens of illness (pain, social isolation, financial costs, and restrictions to lifestyle choices). For the nation, a healthy population is more able to contribute to society in various ways, such as through participation in employment, education and social or community activities. A good level of health also brings about reduced direct costs to the community, both in terms of financial and human capital (such as through lower health care costs and reduced death rates).

While an indicator describing how long Australians live that simultaneously takes into account quality of life would be a desirable summary measure of progress, currently no such measure exists. Life expectancy at birth is one of the most widely used and internationally recognised indicators of population health. It focuses on the length of life rather than its quality, and provides a useful summary of the general health of the population.

During the decade 1999 to 2009, life expectancy at birth improved for both sexes. A girl born in 2009 could expect to reach 83.9 years of age, while a boy could expect to live to 79.3 years. Over the decade, boys’ life expectancy increased slightly more than girls’ (3.1 compared with 2.1 years). This saw the gap between the sexes’ life expectancy decrease by one year to 4.6 years.

For a more in-depth discussion about how health relates to progress and whether it is improving in Australia, please see the Health chapter in Measures of Australia’s Progress, 2010 (cat. no. 1370.0).

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