Life expectancy at birth is one of the most widely used and internationally recognised indicators of population health. High life expectancy at birth generally indicates low levels of infant mortality, a safe environment in which to live, a good health care system, sufficient food and the adoption of preventative health measures.
How long people live is of considerable social policy interest in light of the implications for population growth, projected Australian government spending on health, age-related pensions and aged care, and the workforce’s ability to maintain current levels of economic growth.
In Australia, life expectancy at birth has consistently improved over the past 125 years or so, as shown in graph 11.16. Based on current mortality rates, a boy born in the period 2008–2010 can expect to live 79.5 years, while a girl can expect to live 84.0 years. In 2009, Australia’s life expectancy ranked sixth highest amongst OECD countries for both males and females (OECD, 2011).