Life expectancy for Australians born today rises to 82.8 years

Age is seventh-highest in OECD, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows

an adult bumps fists with a newborn
The 2019 life expectancy findings come from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Photograph: Uldis Zile/Alamy
The 2019 life expectancy findings come from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Photograph: Uldis Zile/Alamy

Last modified on Thu 12 Nov 2020 22.33 EST

The life expectancy for Australians born today is now 82.8 years, above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average of 80.7 years, and the seventh-highest life expectancy among OECD member countries. The highest life expectancy is in Japan, where people can expect to live 84.2 years.

The findings come from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s international health data comparison tool and report, which was launched in 2018 and updated on Friday to include the latest available data, from 2019.

The country has the third lowest infant mortality rate at 3.1 deaths for every 1,000 live births – below the OECD average of 4.1 deaths. Estonia experienced the lowest rate of infant mortality (1.6 deaths for every 1,000 live births).

Australia ranked sixth out of 22 of the 37 OECD countries with available data for the proportion of people aged 15 and over who are overweight or obese (65%) – this was also greater than the OECD average of 59%. Australia had the second-highest rate of obese men, (32%), behind the US (38%), out of 23 OECD countries with available data for this measure. Australia had the eighth-highest proportion of obese women, at 29% compared with the OECD average of 25%.

Australia was among 22 OECD countries in which 100% of the total population was covered by public or private health insurance. Australians over the age of 15 drank an average of 9.5 litres of alcohol per capita in 2019, higher that the OECD average of 8.8 litres. Australia has the among the lowest proportion of daily smokers among people aged 15 and over (11.2%), with Greece ranking highest, at 35%.

The Heart Foundation’s risk assessment manager, Natalie Raffoul, said the findings were consistent with Australian trends, and that preventable risk factors for heart disease were still too high. The three leading causes of death for Australians were coronary heart disease, dementia and stroke.

“Being overweight or obese is a key risk factor for heart attacks and stroke,” Raffoul said. “We know that two in every three Australian adults (67.0%) are overweight or obese, and there are no signs that this trend is about to change.”

While it was good news that life expectancy is increasing, she said, previous research showed Australians are living longer but in poorer health, with many risk factors for heart disease continuing to climb.

“Around 95% of Australians are not eating the recommended five serves of vegetables per day and we are eating too many discretionary foods such as cakes, biscuits, fried foods and fast foods,” she said. “More than 80% of Australian adults are not doing enough physical activity to meet physical activity guidelines, with close to one in five doing no physical activity at all.”

Australia’s life expectancy is behind Japan, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Iceland and Israel.