Life expectancy varies by where you live

How long you can expect to live and your likelihood of dying from a preventable cause varies by where you live, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Life expectancy and potentially avoidable deaths, 2013–2015, reveals that while life expectancy is rising in Australia generally, this is not the case for all local communities.

‘Overall, Australians born in 2013–2015 can expect to live 82.4 years, up from 82.1 years for those born in 2011–2013. Life expectancy has also risen across most local communities, but substantial variation remains across Primary Health Network (PHN) areas,’ said AIHW spokesperson Claire Sparke.

Those living in Northern Sydney can expect to live the longest, at 85.5 years, while the Northern Territory had the shortest life expectancy, at 77.7 years.

The greatest improvements were seen in four Queensland PHN areas (Brisbane North, Brisbane South, Darling Downs and West Moreton, and Western Queensland), with life expectancy rising by 0.6 years between 2011–2013 and 2013–2015, while Gippsland (Vic) recorded the largest fall, down by 0.5 years.

Overall, communities located in metropolitan areas had higher life expectancies than those in regional areas.

A similar pattern was also seen when looking at potentially avoidable deaths. These are deaths that occur prematurely—before the age of 75—from causes that might have been preventable or treatable. There were almost 80,000 potentially avoidable deaths in Australia in 2013–2015, accounting for 17% of all deaths over this period.

‘Nationally, the rate of potentially avoidable deaths improved, from 117 deaths per 100,000 people in 2009–2011, to 108 in 2013–2015.  But again, when looking at regional and metropolitan areas—and across local communities—discrepancies were found,’ Ms Sparke said.

The rate of potentially avoidable deaths was higher in regional areas than in metropolitan areas, with particularly notable results seen again in Northern Sydney and the Northern Territory.

Northern Sydney had the lowest rate of potentially avoidable deaths of 62 deaths per 100,000 people, while the rate was highest in the Northern Territory at 226.

The rate of potentially avoidable deaths declined in most local areas between 2009–2011 and 2013–2015, with the most notable improvement seen in Western Queensland, falling from 213 to 194 deaths per 100,000 people.

‘However, the rate of potentially avoidable deaths increased in some PHN areas, with the greatest increase recorded in the Northern Territory, from 219 to 226 deaths per 100,000 people,’ Ms Sparke said.

‘Publishing local results can help local health service providers and policymakers better understand what’s happening in their community, and where improvements can be made,’ Ms Sparke said.


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