Aussies are living longer, but just how much?

New data from the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing shows Australian life expectancy has increased by three months every year since the 1900s.

Today, the median age at death is 79.6 years for males and 84.9 years for females, according to the AIHW.

These data are the basis of the institute’s new report, asking the question ‘How long can Australians live?’

Data shows that, while life expectancy continues to increase – adding about 30 years since the start of the 20th century – long-lived outliers haven’t changed substantially.

Australia’s oldest woman on record was believed to have died in 2002 at 114 years of age, the oldest man on record reached 111 in 2012. Overall, very few have approached such ages.

MS life expectancy nears that of the rest of the community

However, those living beyond 100 years of age have increased in the past six decades, though overall these still only account for 1 in 72 deaths.

So while some people are living, quite literally, for a century, these remain exceptional.

‘While there is no clear answer to the question, “How long can Australians live?’’, we all know that average life expectancy keeps on increasing,” says Richard Juckes, head of AIHW’s population health group.

“But what is interesting is that the maximum age people live to isn’t changing nearly as much.”

Australia’s high life expectancy – thanks to its quality of healthcare, access to medical services and population-wide standards of living have helped to bump life expectancy up for most people, although there are still deficits. Australia continues to have much higher death rates, for instance, among First Nations peoples – about 10 years sooner than non-Indigenous counterparts.

Data considered in the report tracks life expectancy and other measurements up to 2021. Increases in mortality from COVID-19 in 2022 were scrutinised by actuaries at the end of last year and in early 2023, showing a reduction of life expectancy by about one year for Australians.

Increases and reductions in this statistic are theoretical and are based on assumptions of sex and age-specific death rates continuing throughout a person’s lifetime. Median age at death (the age at which half of deaths occur each year) or modal (the most common age of death) are other methods used to calculate life expectancy.

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