As Australians are living longer, it is important to understand whether people are spending more years in good health or more years living with illness. The measure of health-adjusted life expectancy (HALE) can be used to understand this.
HALE extends the concept of life expectancy by considering the time spent living with disease and injury. It reflects the length of time an individual at a specific age can, on average, expect to live in full health; that is, time lived without the health consequences of disease or injury.
This report presents estimates of HALE for the Australian population in 2011 and 2003. Estimates are also presented by state/territory, remoteness and socioeconomic group for 2011.
Overall, this report finds that Australians are living longer and with more years in good health. However, some of the additional years lived are spent living with disease and injury, and this varies across demographic groups.
- Life expectancy in Australia for males born in 2011 was 79.9 years and for females it was 84.3 years. In the same year, HALE of Australians at birth—that is, the estimated number of years a person could expect to live in full health—was 70.9 for males and 74.4 for females. In other words, a boy born in 2011 could expect to live 89% of his life in full health while a girl could expect to live 88% of her life in full health.
- People aged 65 in 2011 could expect just over three-quarters of their remaining years to be lived in full health.
- While life expectancy continues to increase in Australia, HALE has also increased. Males born in 2011 expected 1.7 more years in full health than males born 8 years earlier in 2003, and females born in 2011 expected 1.2 more years in full health than females born in 2003. These gains in healthy years are comparable to the gains in life expectancy.
- Despite people living longer and living more years in full health, people expected the same percentage of their lives in 2003 and 2011 in full health: 89% for males and 88% for females.
- The Northern Territory had the shortest HALE of all jurisdictions in 2011: males and females expected shorter lives, had the shortest HALE and also expected the greatest percentage of their lives to be lived in ill health.
- People in Remote and very remote areas fared worse than people in Major cities—they had both shorter life expectancy and expected more of their lives in ill health. Those living in Major cities expected to live more years in full health than those in Remote and very remote areas: 5.5 more years for males and 6.9 more years for females.
- People in the highest socioeconomic group (least disadvantaged) expected more years in full health than those in the lowest socioeconomic group: 7.0 more years for males and 4.8 more years for females. Furthermore, people in the highest socioeconomic group expected to live a greater percentage of their lives in full health (90%) compared with those in the lowest group (88%).
A summary of these results is in Table S1.