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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.
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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.
Find out more: ‘Section 3.4 Life expectancy’ in Australia’s health 2012
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.
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.
Find out more: ‘Section 2.7 Adding years to life and life to years’ in Australia’s health 2012
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.
Find out more: ‘Section 3.1 Self-assessed health status’ & ‘Section 3.5 Quality of life’ in Australia’s health 2012