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Australians can now expect to enjoy longer lives with more years free of disability, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Healthy life expectancy in Australia: patterns and trends 1998 to 2012, shows the gains in the number of expected years living free of disability were related to a combination of increasing longevity and decreases in disability prevalence rates.

'Between 1998 and 2012, male life expectancy at birth rose from 75.9 years to 79.9 years-a gain of 4 extra years. For females it rose from 81.5 years to 84.3 years-an extra 2.8 years,' said AIHW spokesperson Mark Cooper-Stanbury.

Australians can also expect to live more of these extra years free of disability and severe or profound core activity limitation (that is, sometimes or always needing personal help with activities of self-care, mobility or communication).

Disability-free life expectancy at birth rose by 4.4 years for males and 2.4 years for females between 1998 and 2012.

The report shows that:                                                        

  • Australians who had reached the age of 65 gained, on average, more years without severe or profound core activity limitation than years with it.
  • Men who were aged 65 in 2012 could expect to live another 8.7 years without disability and a further 10.4 years with some form of disability, including 3.7 years with a severe or profound core activity limitation.
  • Women who were 65 in 2012 could expect to live 9.5 years without disability and a further 12.5 years with some form of disability, including 5.8 years with a severe or profound core activity limitation.
  • Boys born in 2012 could expect to live to the age of 62.4 without disability and a further 17.5 years with some form of disability.
  • Girls born in 2012 could expect to live to the age of 64.5 without disability and a further 19.8 years with some form of disability.

The report also shows that gender gaps in life expectancy are narrowing across all age groups, although women can still expect to live longer than men.

'Between 1998 and 2012, the gap between males and females for years free of disability approximately halved, from 4.1 years to 2.1 years,' Mr Cooper-Stanbury said.

'Whether Australians have more years living free of disability as the overall life expectancy lengthens has important implications for population health and wellbeing and for Australia's health and long term care systems.'

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 21 November 2014

Further information: Mark Cooper-Stanbury, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1251, mob. 0418 271 395

Full publication: Healthy life expectancy in Australia: patterns and trends 1998 to 2012