How to work out your life expectancy

31 August 2015
There’s no sure way to know how long you’re going to live, but some of us spend plenty of money trying to beat the clock.

How can you work out what your life expectancy is?

Official statistics from AIHW and ABS

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the life expectancy of children born here in Australia in the 2010s is 34 years longer than back in the 1880s. Boys born today can expect to live to reach 80, while girls can expect to live until 84. This is compared to 47 years old for boys and 50 for girls born in 1881.

Frustratingly, the life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is still 10 years below that of the rest of the population. However, we are slowly seeing this gap decrease through education about health factors that affect these people groups. From 2005 to 2012, the ATSI life expectancy increased by 1.6 years for boys and 0.6 years for girls.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) also calculates life expectancy figures as a measure of the risk that someone will die at a certain age. This is based on death patterns in our population over 3-year stretches. For example, in 2014, they calculated our life expectancy as:

  • A boy born in 2001 could expect to live until 77, and if he reached 65 years old he could then expect to live until 94. A girl born in 2001 could expect to live until 82, and 87 if she lived to 65.
  • A boy born in 2012 could expect to live until 79, and if he reached 65 years old he could then expect to live until 98. A girl born in 2012 could expect to live until 84, and 106 if she lived to 65.

Did you catch that? Today’s 3-year-old girls might live to be 106 years old!

Online life expectancy calculators

There are also some reputable calculators that you can use quickly online for estimating your own personal life expectancy.

The Death Clock is one that many people know of, as it was first created back in 2006. It is very quick and very simple, with only 6 questions to answer. As one of the questions, you select what country you live in and it uses actuarial data to create a life expectancy for that country.

I found the AMP Life Expectancy calculator the best of the bunch. It calculated my level of health with surprising accuracy based not just on my activities but on things like my outlook on life, my financial situation, and whether I live in an urban or rural area. AMP said I will die at 82, which is below average for Australia, while the Death Clock said I will die at 84, above average.

Bupa has a Quick Health Age Check where you can calculate your age in terms of how healthy you are. It also calculates your risk of dying before 90 due to preventable lifestyle choices and non-preventable health conditions that run in your family. It won’t tell you when you’ll die, but it will tell you what you need to change to decrease your risk of dying “early”.

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Living longer, but living unhealthily

Australia definitely is the lucky country when it comes to living longer. Our high quality of life has given us the third highest life expectancy in the world!

But a new worldwide study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that across the globe, people are living longer, but with poorer health than ever before. The study was published in The Lancet Journal and reported on by ABC News here.

Thanks to the significant progress we’ve made in treating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and childhood illnesses, general health levels have improved worldwide. But the study showed that people now reach the age where the body begins to break down, and then continue to live at that level of sickness and disability for longer.

WHO compares Healthy Life Expectancy (how long you’ll live at a healthy level) against plain old Life Expectancy (how long you will live in total). In 2013, our worldwide life expectancy at birth was 71 years but healthy life expectancy was just 62 years. While this was an improvement of 6 years in life expectancy since 1990, it was only an improvement of 5 years in healthy life expectancy.

Is this an improvement in life expectancy’ Maybe, but our quality of life is still only lasting the same amount, and after that we’re still stuck here. Non-fatal conditions and chronic illnesses such as heart and lung disease, diabetes, and serious injuries, can make a huge difference to how we spend our remaining time on earth.

The leader of the WHO analysis, Professor Theo Vos of the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said, “Now the challenge is to invest in finding more effective ways of preventing or treating the major causes of illness and disability.”

What can we do about it?

We can increase our own healthy life expectancy by simply changing a few lifestyle factors. Quitting smoking, drinking less, and getting active will add years of health to our lives. A 15-minute walk every day will add 3 healthy years to your life, according to Bupa.

And we can’t just help ourselves – we can help people in other countries who currently expect to live far shorter and poorer lives. Out of the 188 countries studied by WHO, many such as Belize, Botswana and Syria did not show any improvement in life expectancy since 1990. Countries such as South Africa, Paraguay and Belarus actually showed a drop in life expectancy. As for the country with the lowest life expectancy, people in Lesotho can expect to live just 42 years.

There is a lot that we can do to help countries with a lower life expectancy due to disability and disease. The following are international not-for-profit organisations that directly help individual people in third world nations who have disabilities that cause them to live in crippling poverty. Your donation can give these people a longer and healthier life.

Change someone’s life by donating to any of these worthy causes today.

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