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Good news, women of Australia: we’re set to live longer


At 84.6 years, Aussie women’s life expectancy is at its highest ever recorded and is the sixth highest in the world, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals.

With the average male life expectancy sitting at 80.4 years, these figures relate to the life expectancy of those born between 2014 and 2016. In comparison, the life expectancy for Aussie females born between 2004 and 2006 is 83.5 and the male life expectancy is 78.7 years.

Commenting on the findings, ABS director of demography Beidar Cho said: “This reflects a major shift in causes of death from infectious diseases to chronic diseases.

In its report, the ABS added: “As a consequence of an ageing population and improvements in social, economic and living standards, there has been a major shift in causes of death from infectious diseases to chronic diseases within older age groups over the century.


“This has resulted in larger gains in life expectancy over time for people aged 65 years and over.”

Looking back, Australian women have gained 33.7 years in life expectancy since 1890, while men have gained 33.2 years.

Most of these gains in life expectancy occurred between 1890-1910 and 1910-1934 when both men and women gained an extra eight years of life.

As it stands now, Australians (men and women combined) have the third highest life expectancy in the world, according to the United Nations. At a combined average of 82.5, Australia sits behind Switzerland (82.7) and Japan (83.3) but ahead of Singapore, Iceland, Israel and Sweden.

Breaking the numbers down by state, ACT has the greatest life expectancy of Australian males (81.3) and for women (85.2).

On the other end of the spectrum, the Northern Territory have the lowest Australian female life expectancy (78.7), and for men (75.6).

However, men in the Northern Territory have seen the highest gains in life expectancy out of all states since 2006, with an extra 3.5 years.

At the same time, women in the Northern Territory have experienced the lowest gains in life expectancy since 2006, with just 0.6 years gained. Women in Western Australia have also experienced similarly low gains in life expectancy, with just 0.6 years gained.

What does this mean?

As Australians live longer, the risk of outliving superannuation and retirement savings has increased correspondingly.

For women, this risk is particularly pronounced. A recent study from the Actuaries Institute of Australia has found that out of Australia, the UK and the US, the gap in retirement preparedness between men and women was highest in Australia.

Fifty-four per cent of men believe they are prepared for retirement compared to just 32 per cent of women.

The Actuaries Institute suggested that traditional gender roles could be to blame.

It said: “Women might feel less responsible, especially if they live in households with men who take care of this financial responsibility. Or, it might be that men, feeling that they ought to be able and willing to handle these responsibilities, exaggerate their preparations, creating an appearance of gendered differences in preparedness where none exists.”

Further, as Australia’s population ages, Australians are increasingly caught between caring roles for older parents and the requirement to work longer, the ABS said, pointing to the growing number of Australians working past 65 years and the number of Australians over 65 who need to care for relatives.

“Providing informal care can affect an older person’s capacity to remain in paid work,” the ABS argued.

“In 2015, 41.5 per cent of older primary carers spent an average of 40 hours or more per week in their caring role, leaving little time to carry out paid work.

“Of older carers who were not in the labour force, one in eight (12.7 per cent) reported that the main reason for leaving work was to commence their caring role.”

Women aged 55-64 are also “particularly affected” by this phenomenon, the ABS said, highlighting the “competing societal demands that encourage increased labour force participation in older age, while simultaneously being relied upon to care for the growing number of older Australians ageing in their own home”.

Women approaching retirement (aged 55-64) made up 57.5 per cent of carers in 2015, with 58.3 per cent of those also participating in the labour force. That’s compared to non-carers in the same age bracket, of which 69.5 per cent are still actively working. 

Good news, women of Australia: we’re set to live longer
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