How long can we expect to live?

We have an aging population in New Zealand; so what is our average life expectancy?

In 2005, 12% of New Zealand’s population was aged 65 and over. In 30 years’ time the proportion of people in this age group will have risen to over 25%. And more of them will still be working. Over the next 20 years we can expect the number of people aged 65+ still in the labour force to treble.

Over the past century our life expectancy has improved. Compared to 50 years ago, men live 9 years longer – to 76 years of age, and women live almost 10 years longer – to age 81. Maori men and women live about 8.5 years less than pakeha, but this gap is narrowing as maori health improves.

And what do we die of? Almost three-quarters of us die from heart disease (41%) and cancer (29%).

The American Institute for Cancer Research says that 30-40% of cancers can be prevented through diet, activity and weight control. For tips, read Exercise for older people and Healthy aging: Putting life back in your years.

First published: Jun 2007

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