New research from The Australian National University (ANU). reports that Australian men are now longer-lived than any of their counterparts elsewhere on Earth. The study relies on a new method of measuring life expectancy, one which accounts for the historical mortality conditions that older generations lived through.
A country for old men
“Popular belief has it that Japan and the Nordic countries are doing really well in terms of health, wellbeing, and longevity. But Australia is right there,” said Dr. Collin Payne, co-lead author of the study.
“The results have a lot to do with long term stability and the fact Australia’s had a high standard of living for a really, really long time. Simple things like having enough to eat, and not seeing a lot of major conflict play a part.”
According to the authors, Australian men live, on average, to the ripe old age of 74.1. Australian women ranked second globally, after their Swiss sisters. The study drew data from 15 countries with high life expectancies in Europe, North America, and Asia.
The team grouped people by their year of birth, which helped them separate ‘early’ deaths from ‘late’ ones — this baseline allowed them to tell whether someone could be considered an ‘above-average’ survivor or not.
“Most measures of life expectancy are just based on mortality rates at a given time,” Dr Payne said. “It’s basically saying if you took a hypothetical group of people and put them through the mortality rates that a country experienced in 2018, for example, they would live to an average age of 80.
This, however, leaves out part of the picture — for example, it doesn’t give any information regarding “the life courses of people, as they’ve lived through to old age.” The team wanted their approach to take this into account — for example, it also factors in mortality rates from 50, 60, and 70 years ago. Such an approach allows the team to tell whether someone has reached or exceeded the life expectancy of their own cohort, rather than the aggregate whole.
Dr. Payne says that any Australian man who lived over 74 years of age has outlived half of his cohort (other Australian men born the same year), making him an above-average survivor. One who died before the age of 74 didn’t live up to his cohort’s life expectancy.
Apart from the conditions in Australia proper, other effects helped put the men of the Dry Continent on the top of the list too.
“[Life expectancy] figures are higher here than anywhere else that we’ve measured life expectancy,” Dr. Payne says. “Mortality was really high in Japan in the 30s, 40s and 50s. In Australia, mortality was really low during that time.”
“French males, for example, drop out because a lot of them died during WW2, some from direct conflict, others from childhood conditions.”
The team hopes to get enough data together to see how the rankings have evolved throughout the last 30 or 40 years.
The paper “Tracking progress in mean longevity: The Lagged Cohort Life Expectancy (LCLE) approach” has been published in the journal Population Studies.