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Growth in life expectancy slows - but there is plenty of room for improvement

New Zealand has relatively good life expectancy (compared to many OECD countries) but still has many opportunities to improve - estimate by our data scientist, Ed Foster, using the major causes of death occurring between age 16 and 65 show that:

If we assume there are factors which are influenceable in bringing New Zealand’s mortality rates down to that of the average of the OECD, we can say that 254 deaths could be prevented annually with 87% coming from the female population.

A huge number of those lives that could be saved are women who die from breast cancer. That's another reason why cancer care and access to non-Pharmac drugs is so important. It is also a good reason why real world data should be the underpinning for insurance product rating. 

Turning our attention to the gap to the best performing country for each of the 10 causes of death, we can see that 2,049 lives could be saved annually but now with the majority (53%) coming from the male population.

That shows that although life expectancy growth has slowed recently, see media release below from Statistics New Zealand, there remains plenty of opportunity for us to improve.  A major contributor in this larger number is road safety. Another major contributor is self-harm. Subscribers to our quarterly life and health report have access to the full analysis. 

Growth in life expectancy slows – Media release

20 April 2021

Life expectancy continues to increase, although the change over time has slowed, Stats NZ said today.

Life expectancy at birth for the population as a whole is 80.0 years for males, and 83.5 years for females, based on death rates in 2017–2019. Life expectancy for males has increased by 0.5 years since 2012–2014, and by 2.0 years since 2005–2007. Life expectancy for females has increased by 0.3 years and 1.3 years over the same time periods.

“While life expectancy is still increasing, the increase over the last few years is smaller than in the past,” population estimates and projections manager Hamish Slack said.

Visit our website to read this news story, information release, and methods paper, and to download CSV files:

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