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Life expectancy for the Indigenous population is much lower than non-Indigenous Australians across all age groups. However, there is considerable uncertainty about the magnitude of this difference because Indigenous status has not been reported accurately on death registrations.
A recent study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated Indigenous life expectancy for 2005-07 to be 67.2 years for males (11.5 years lower than for non-Indigenous males), and 72.9 years for females (9.7 years lower than for non-Indigenous females).
Indigenous death rates are highest compared with non-Indigenous rates from ages 25-64 years.
The causes of death with the largest contribution to excess mortality among Indigenous males are circulatory diseases (26%), external causes (20%), neoplasms (10%), respiratory diseases (10%), and endocrine, metabolic and nutritional disorders (9%).
For Indigenous females, the causes of death with the largest contribution to excess mortality are circulatory diseases (24%), endocrine, metabolic and nutritional disorders (18%), digestive diseases (10%), neoplasms (9%) and respiratory diseases (9%).
From ages 35-54, the ratio of Indigenous to non-Indigenous death rates is highest for diabetes, diseases of the liver, chronic lower respiratory disease and ischaemic heart disease.
Indigenous death rates declined significantly from 1991 to 2008. This was mainly due to a decline in Indigenous death rates from circulatory diseases.
Previous research has revealed that a range of risk factors contribute to excess Indigenous mortality, including tobacco smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, high overweight/obesity, poor nutrition and lower utilisation of health services relative to need.