4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2005  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 14/10/2005   
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Contents >> Chapter 9: Mortality >> Life Expectancy

The estimates of life expectancy presented here are drawn from the Australian life tables, 1998-2000, and the Experimental Indigenous Abridged Life Tables, 1996-2001 (ABS 2004b). Life expectancy refers to the average number of years a person of a given age and sex can expect to live, if current age-sex-specific death rates continue to apply throughout his or her lifetime. A 'life table' is created from age-specific death rates that are used to calculate values which measure mortality, survivorship and life expectancy. To construct a life table, data on total population, births and deaths are needed, and the accuracy of the life table depends upon the completeness of these data. Because of uncertainty about the estimates of these components for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, experimental methods are used to calculate life expectancies for the Indigenous population. These experimental life expectancies should only be used as an indicative summary measure of the level of mortality of the Indigenous population.

In the period 1996-2001, using the Bhat method (ABS 2004c), the life expectancy at birth for Indigenous Australians was estimated to be 59.4 years for males and 64.8 years for females, compared with 76.6 years for all males and 82.0 years for all females for the period 1998-2000; a difference of approximately 17 years for both males and females. The Bhat method offers improvement over other indirect methods used earlier by the ABS to estimate life expectancy from incomplete data such as the Preston Hill method (Preston & Hill 1980). While the Bhat method allows for an adjustment for changes in identification to be taken into account in the estimation of life expectancy, it remains experimental and therefore more work needs to be done on such estimates as more robust methods become available.

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