Who wins the life expectancy crown?

Sarah Wiedersehn
(Australian Associated Press)

Australian men are set to lose their bragging rights as the longest living males on the planet, according to international research.

Life expectancy projections for developed countries published in The Lancet show South Korea is winning the race for both sexes, knocking Australia from the top spot for men.

Of 35 developed nations, South Korea is likely to see the largest longevity gains by 2030, with female life expectancy likely to break the 90-year mark (90.8 years).

This is attributed to better childhood and adolescent nutrition, low smoking rates and better access to health care.

South Korean men jet to the top of the pack with a projected life expectancy of 84.1 years, just outlasting Australian men.

Australian boys born in 2030, the authors say, can expect to live to 84, four years longer than those born in 2010.

“There is an at least 95% probability that men’s life expectancy at birth in these three countries will surpass 80 years in 2030, and 27% that it would surpass 85 years,” the authors wrote.

As a result of the large gains made in South Korea, the country is likely to take “the life expectancy frontier position from Japan for women and catch up with the current global frontier country Australia for men”, the authors said.

Australian girls born in 2030 can expect to live until they are 87.57 – the sixth-longest projected life span behind South Korea, France, Japan, Spain and Switzerland.

Researchers at Imperial College London used age-specific death rates to calculate life expectancy at birth and at 65 years, and also the probability of dying before 70.

The modelling showed life expectancy is projected to increase in all 35 industrialised countries, with life expectancy projected to reach 90 in some nations.

It also predicts the female life expectancy advantage over men is likely to shrink in every country except Mexico.

Life expectancy in Australia has improved dramatically for both sexes in the past century, particularly life expectancy at birth.

According to data from the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare released in 2016, a boy born in 2013-15 can expect to live to 80.4 years and a girl 84.5 years.

The increasing life spans highlight the successes in public health and health care, said Professor Andrea Maier, a bio-gerontology specialist at the University of Melbourne.

But to ensure the healthcare system doesn’t lose it’s potency, people need to be taught how to live longer in a healthier way, she said.

“Otherwise we are just growing old as patients.”

“It really matters how you behave in early age to prevent disasters at old age,” she said.


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