Australian life expectancy continues to increase with life expectancy at birth being 75.9 years for males and 81.5 years for females during 1996-98. Internationally, Australia's life expectancy ranks behind Japan, Sweden, Canada and Switzerland (lower by up to three years), is about the same as France and Spain, and is one year higher than New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
In the last 10 years, death rates have fallen for males and females in most age groups. The notable exception was a small increase in death rates for males aged 30-39 years.
Reflecting a decline in the death rates from all causes, the average age at death has been rising. In 1998, the age by which 50% of total deaths occurred (median age) was 77 years, compared to 75 years 10 years ago.
In 1998 people aged 25-44 years again had the highest suicide death rate (23 deaths per 100,000 people in this age group). This represents an increase over the 17 deaths per 100,000 people recorded for this age group in 1989. The rate for 15-24 age group has also increased over this period, from 14 to 17 deaths per 100,000 people aged 15-24. However, suicide represents a higher proportion of all deaths among those aged 15-24 (25%) than those aged 25-44 (20%).
The 1998 infant mortality rate was the lowest ever in Australia for the second consecutive year, with 5.0 deaths per 1,000 live births. There were 2,090 perinatal deaths (still births and deaths of children within 28 days of birth) in 1998, 10% lower than in the previous year (2321).
See Deaths, Australia 1998 (Cat. No. 3302.0) and Causes of Death, Australia 1998 (Cat. No. 3303.0) for more detail.