Covid-19 pandemic trims Australian life expectancy, ABS data shows

Life expectancy has fallen for the first time in a generation, ending nearly three decades of increasing lifespans, due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While Australians still have the third-highest life expectancy in the world, behind only Monaco and Japan, the pandemic cut just over one month off the average lifespan during the 2020-22 period, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday.

The data shows that a boy born today is expected to live to 81.2 years, and a baby girl is expected to live more than four years longer, reaching 85.3 years.

During the first two years of the pandemic, mortality rates from all causes reached a record low due to implementation of an array of public health measures to restrict the spread of the virus.

But an extra 20,000 deaths during 2022 – half of these caused by Covid-19 – pushed the three-year life expectancy average 0.1 years lower.

The bureau’s head of demography Beidar Cho said while there was a relatively large increase in the number of deaths, the effect this had on life expectancy was limited.

“Despite slightly lower life expectancy in Australia, it’s still higher than before the pandemic and continues to be one of the highest in the world,” Ms Cho said.

“We expect that most new babies in Australia today will live into the 22nd century.”

The Australian Capital Territory had the highest life expectancy at 82.2 years for males and 86 years for females.

Meanwhile, the Northern Territory had the lowest life expectancy, 76.2 years for males and 80.7 years for females.

However, the difference between the Northern Territory and the national average has decreased, the ABS said, with life expectancy in the Top End showing the largest gains of all states and territories over the past 30 years.

The federal government’s most recent Intergenerational Report, released in August, shows Australians can expect to live longer, with life expectancies forecast to rise to 87 years for males and 89.5 years for females by 2062-63.

With Australians living longer and having fewer children, the number of people aged over 65 is forecast to double, the report said, while the count of those aged 85 and above will triple from current levels.

The demographic shift is expected to demand increased government spending on aged care and support services, the Intergenerational Report noted.

Originally published as Covid-19 pandemic trims Australian life expectancy, ABS data shows

Cristeen Gonzama

Cristeen Gonzales writes about health and medicine. She tends toward stories that reveal the on-the-ground impact of health policy, with a particular focus on the opioid epidemic, Covid-19 and abortion.

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