New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows Australia’s life expectancy between 2019 and 2021 has risen to 85.4 years for women and 81.3 years for men.
On the latest global figures, our overall life expectancy is now third-highest in the world, behind only Japan and Monaco.
What is life expectancy, and why is Australia’s so high?
What is it?
Life expectancy is typically calculated “at birth”: what is the expected age of death for a baby born today?
However, because this calculation is based on current death data, it’s useful to treat life expectancy as a reflection of patterns today, rather than a literal prediction of how long babies will live into the future.
How do we compare?
In 2020, Australia’s life expectancy of 84.32 years was behind only Japan (84.69) and Monaco (86.54). Monaco is one of the smallest and richest countries in the world.
Australia’s male life expectancy is 11.9 years longer than the global average, and female life expectancy is 10.6 years longer.
Why is it so high?
Australia’s life expectancy has been high by global standards for some time. We were ranked 6th in 2018, and 7th in 2003.
One reason Australia has moved even further up the list in the last few years is our lower COVID-19 death rate.
The ABS says Australia was “one of the few countries” where life expectancy improved in the first two years of the pandemic.
Government statistical agencies produce a variety of measures of life expectancy.
One is ‘health-adjusted life expectancy’, which accounts for rates of disease and injury to calculate the expected years someone will live in full health. For babies born in 2018, this was 71.5 for males and 74.1 for females.
Australia also calculates separate life expectancies for different population groups. According to the latest ABS data, First Nations people have almost a decade lower life expectancy than non-First Nations people.