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The short answer is ‘yes’. We are a healthy nation by many measures, including life expectancy and our own views of our health and quality of life.

There are several other ways of measuring and describing health, which are covered in more detail in the full Australia’s health 2012 report.

For example, we can look at patterns of disease, demand for health services and the people most at risk of poor health.

In doing so, we can all gain insights into how we can improve our health through healthy behaviours and better health services.

Outliving most of the world

Australia enjoys one of the highest life expectancies of any country in the world, and has done so for quite some time. In 2009, we ranked sixth for our male and female life expectancy at birth among similar, developed countries.

Switzerland has the highest life expectancy for boys and Japan the highest for girls. Many factors could contribute to the differences between countries, including genetics, dietary behaviours, the effectiveness of health-care systems, and differences in living, working and environmental conditions.

Life expectancy at birth: how we compared in 2009

Horizontal bar chart showing average life expectancy at birth by OECD countries, for males and females, in 2009.

Find out more: ‘Section 3.4 Life expectancy’ in Australia’s health 2012

Living longer than ever before

Our life expectancy at birth has risen dramatically over the past 100 years.

A boy born today can expect to live to 80 years and a girl longer, to 84. Around the year 1900 this was 29 years lower: about 51 years for boys and 55 for girls.

Life expectancy is much lower for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than for non-Indigenous Australians: 12 years less for males and 10 years less for females. Closing this gap is a national priority.

Life expectancy at birth since 1900

Line graph showing life expectancy at birth since 1900, for males and females in Australia. Life expectancy has increased by about 29 years for males and females since 1900.

Find out more: ‘Section 3.4 Life expectancy’ in Australia’s health 2012

Living more years in good health

Many older Australians are healthy, and report high satisfaction with life and frequent contact with family and friends.

Recent information suggests that the physical health of older Australians is improving, as they live more years free of disability.

For example, for people already aged 65, life expectancy increased by about 2 years over the period 1998 to 2009, and more than half of this gain was years lived in good health.

While women aged 65 can expect to live longer than men of the same age, they can also expect more years in poor health.

Expected years of life at age 65, 1998 and 2009

Stacked bar chart showing increase in expected disability-free years at age 65, for males and females. Males in 2009 could expect to live 8.2 disability-free years from age 65, compared to 7.1 years in 1998. Females in 2009 could expect to lives 9.7 disability-free years from age 65 in 2009, compared to 8.7 years in 1998.

Find out more: ‘Section 2.7 Adding years to life and life to years’ in Australia’s health 2012

Rating our own health and quality of life highly

In health surveys, people can be asked to rate the quality of their health or life. While there is no agreed definition of good health or high quality of life, this information can provide insight into how people think and feel about their health and wellbeing.

More than half (56%) of Australians aged 15 and over rate their health as excellent or very good; a further 29% as good; and 15% as fair or poor.

This pattern is not the same for all population groups: Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, the unemployed, and people experiencing the most socioeconomic disadvantage are less likely to rate their health as excellent or very good.

Most Australians feel positively about their quality of life—83% said they were delighted, pleased or mostly satisfied, 14% said they had mixed feelings, and 4% felt mostly dissatisfied, unhappy or terrible. People who rated their health highly were also more likely to rate their quality of life highly.

How we rate our health, 2007–08 How we rate our quality of life, 2007

Pie chart showing how Australians rated their health in 2007-08: 56% rated their health excellent or very good, 29% good, and 15% poor. Pie chart showing how Australians rated their quality of life in 2007: 33% were pleased, 31% mostly satisfied, 18% delighted, 14% mixed, and 4% mostly dissatisfied, unhappy, terrible.

Find out more: ‘Section 3.1 Self-assessed health status’ & ‘Section 3.5 Quality of life’ in Australia’s health 2012