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3101.0 - Australian Demographic Statistics, Sep 2001  
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Special Article - Life expectancy of first generation migrants (Sep Qtr 2001)


This article was published in
Australian Demographic Statistics (Cat. no. 3101.0), September Quarter 2001.

INTRODUCTION

Internationally, Australia's life expectancy at birth is one of the highest in the world, falling behind Japan by 1-2 years, which has the highest life expectancy. Life expectancies at birth and other ages are used as measures of the level of mortality of a population. They are also used for assessing trends and differentials in mortality.

In 2000, nearly 24% of Australia's population (or 4.5 million people) were born overseas in one of over 200 countries. With such a large migrant population, how does the life expectancy of first generation migrants compare to that of the Australian-born population? This article compares the life expectancy of first generation migrants from 20 countries with that of Australian-born residents. These countries represented 69% of the migrant population in 2000.

LIFE TABLES

A life table is a statistical model which is constructed from the mortality rates of a population at different ages. Life tables may be complete or abridged, depending on the age interval used in their compilation. Complete life tables contain data by single year of age, while abridged life tables contain data for five year age groups. For the 1997-1999 period life expectancy at birth for the Australian population was estimated at 76 years for males and 82 years for females.

Abridged life tables calculated for first generation migrants are slightly skewed as there are very few deaths of migrants aged 15 years or less. Since the average age of migrants arriving permanently in recent years has been around 27 years, using a life table starting at age 30 years and estimating mortality from that age onwards provides a more meaningful comparison.

LIFE EXPECTANCY OF MIGRANTS

The analysis shows that at age 30 years Australian-born residents generally had a lower life expectancy (men 47.4 years, women 52.5 years) than the overseas-born population (men 48.9 years, women 53.6 years). This suggests that migrants may have more favourable health than the Australian-born population.

Male and female life expectancy

Women generally experience a longer life expectancy than men. This was observed for all countries of birth that were included in this analysis.

Compared with the life expectancy at age 30 years for Australian-born men (47.4 years), higher life expectancies were observed for migrant men from Viet Nam (56.2 years), Korea (54.6 years), China (53.2 years), Philippines (52.9 years) and Sri Lanka (51.3 years).

Viet Nam-born women had the highest life expectancy at age 30 years. At 58.7 years it was marginally higher than women born in China (57.5 years), Philippines (56.3 years), Korea (56.0 years) and Sri Lanka (55.1 years). By comparison Australian-born women had a life expectancy of 52.5 years at age 30.

Men born in Fiji (46.6 years), Japan (47.2 years) and Papua New Guinea (47.4 years) had life expectancies at 30 years that were lower than Australian-born men. Women migrants from Fiji (48.7 years), Japan (50.3 years), Papua New Guinea (50.5 years), Hong Kong (51.6 years) and Indonesia (51.9 years) had lower life expectancies at age 30 years than Australian-born women.

Some of these differences (e.g. Japan and Hong Kong) are due to the small number of deaths on which the life tables are based (see the column on confidence intervals in table).

English proficiency

It is commonly assumed that those who do not speak English well tend to be disadvantaged in using Australian health services (VandenHeuvel 1999). While this analysis does not measure English proficiency, it was found that migrant men and women from non-English speaking countries, such as Viet Nam and China, had the highest life expectancies. Migrants from countries such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom and New Zealand had life expectancies, which were closer to the Australian-born population.

A comparison with the population of the country of birth

For selected countries the analysis showed the life expectancy of first generation migrants in Australia was generally higher than the life expectancy at age 30 years of the population in their country of birth. Japanese-born men (48.2 years) and women (54.5 years) and Singapore-born men (46.2 years) were the exceptions to this.


EXPECTATION OF LIFE AT AGE 30 YEARS FOR THE AUSTRALIAN POPULATION, 1997-1999




MALES


FEMALES


















Deaths

Population


95%


Deaths

Population


95%


1997-

June

eo

Confidence


1997-

June

eo

Confidence


1999

1998

Age 30

interval(a)


1999

1998

Age 30

interval(a)












no.

no.

years

years


no.

no.

years

years











Total Australia

202,052

9,319,897

47.9

(47.8-48.0)


182,602

9,410,462

52.8

(52.7-52.9)

Australian-born

141,391

7,125,758

47.4

(47.3-47.5)


134,620

7,238,286

52.5

(52.4-52.6)

Overseas-born

60,661

2,194,139

48.9

(48.8-49.1)


47,982

2,172,176

53.6

(53.4-53.7)











China

1,142

72,553

53.2

(52.3-54.1)


968

76,548

57.5

(56.6-58.4)

Fiji

249

18,209

46.6

(44.3-48.9)


220

20,680

48.7

(46.3-51.2)

Former USSR and the Baltic States

2,032

25,288

48.6

(47.4-49.8)


1,743

30,056

53.3

(52.3-54.4)

Former Yugoslavia

2,766

105,637

48.2

(47.5-48.9)


1,435

97,851

54.2

(53.4-55.0)

Germany

1,982

60,000

48.4

(47.5-49.2)


1,868

62,690

53.0

(52.1-53.8)











Hong Kong

136

26,882

48.7

(45.9-51.5)


122

28,374

51.6

(48.9-54.4)

India

840

50,314

50.7

(49.6-51.8)


785

44,945

53.7

(52.6-54.7)

Indonesia

293

28,531

49.6

(47.7-51.4)


259

28,267

51.9

(50.0-53.9)

Japan

67

9,257

47.2

(40.8-53.6)


91

12,824

50.3

(46.9-53.7)

Korea

117

18,826

54.6

(50.3-58.9)


87

19,519

56.0

(52.6-59.5)











Lebanon

588

40,401

49.0

(47.6-50.4)


355

36,754

52.8

(51.1-54.5)

New Zealand

2,460

175,260

48.7

(47.9-49.4)


1,908

167,445

53.1

(52.3-53.9)

Papua New Guinea

102

12,526

47.4

(43.7-51.0)


106

14,059

50.5

(47.1-53.9)

Philippines

274

41,698

52.9

(50.4-55.5)


341

72,606

56.3

(54.4-58.2)

Singapore

114

13,465

45.8

(42.5-49.2)


90

15,307

51.5

(48.0-55.0)











South Africa

419

33,846

51.1

(49.5-52.7)


432

34,560

54.8

(53.3-56.3)

Sri Lanka

369

28,055

51.3

(49.5-53.0)


330

27,185

55.1

(53.6-56.6)

United Kingdom

22,343

620,036

49.2

(49.0-49.5)


20,642

604,634

53.5

(53.3-53.8)

United States of America

517

33,124

48.6

(47.1-50.2)


285

29,002

52.7

(50.6-54.7)

Viet Nam

534

86,837

56.2

(54.2-58.2)


393

86,712

58.7

(57.0-60.4)


(a) For the method of calculation see Chiang, C.L, 1984, The life table and its applications, Krieger, Malabar.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Further information on life expectancy of first generation migrants and deaths in general is available in Deaths, Australia, 2000 (Cat. no. 3302.0) released on 11 December 2001.

Reference

VandenHeuvel, A., Wooden, M. 1999 New Settlers Have Their Say: How immigrants fare over the early years of settlement. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.


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