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The life expectancy of Australians has continued its steady rise with the country now ranked third in the world, up from sixth last year.
New figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show life expectancy at birth is now 85.4 years for females and 81.3 years for males.
The combined male and female figure is 84.32 years, putting Australia behind only the principality of Monaco, and Japan, according to global data from the United Nations.
ABS director of demography, Emily Walter, said it is the highest ranking the country has achieved.
"That takes into account the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and shows really that Australia's life expectancy has remained strong through that period," she said.
"It's important to understand though what that's showing is not only improvements or changes in life expectancy [here], but also changes in other countries' life expectancy."
The statistics cover 2019 to 2021 – so do not take into account this year, which has been Australia's deadliest period of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Head of the Australian National University's School of Demography, Professor Vladimir Canudas Romo, said based on mortality numbers so far in 2022, he expects life expectancy at birth will fall by about six months in next year's figures.
"It's actually OK news compared to the two years that they lost in the US, about the same in Spain," he said.
"That said, I pay my respects to all the families that sadly lost relatives."
According to the ABS, life expectancy at birth estimates represent the average number of years that a newborn baby could expect to live "assuming current age-specific death rates are experienced through his/her lifetime".
Based on this year's figures, eight-month-old Scout McTaggart's life expectancy is 85.4 years.
When her grandmother Tracy-Ann O'Sullivan was born in 1962 it was around 11 years lower.
"I think there's a greater awareness that you've got to keep moving, even if something hurts, you've got to keep moving," Ms O'Sullivan said.
Scout's mother Bridget McTaggart is filled with hope for her daughter's future.
"I hope she has a long healthy life, I can only imagine that by the time she's old she'll be living to 100-and-something," Ms McTaggart said.
"We are so blessed in this country in a lot of ways, but especially with our health care system."
Professor Romo said the life expectancy gap between males and females exists in "every single country in the world" and is as much as 12 years in Russia.
"The reason is because at every single age women over-live men, mortality for males it's slightly higher at every single age," he said.
He said the gap between the sexes is especially pronounced at certain ages, including when young people start drinking alcohol and driving cars.
"Young males are more prone to taking risks than women," he said.
Ms Walter said the difference is diminishing over time.
"The gap between males and females in life expectancy now sits at 4.1 years, but even in the 1970s it was sitting at around seven years, so that's gradually coming together."
Australian males are doing well in the global stakes with their life expectancy at birth now ranked second in the world, behind Monaco.
The latest statistics do not include a breakdown of the life expectancy of First Nations Australians with updated information due to be published in November 2023.
According to the 2020 Closing The Gap Report, life expectancy at birth was 8.6 years lower for Indigenous males and 7.8 years lower for Indigenous women, compared with other Australians.
Professor Romo said while Australia is a "lucky land" there are "big gaps" that need to be narrowed for First Nations people.
"We have to keep on trying to close those gaps to make sure everybody in Australia is as lucky as the whole country has been," he said.
He said factors like obesity and climate change could shrink future life expectancy.
"We cannot take away what climate change is doing to our health," he said.
"We are already seeing in some countries the consequences of excess of heat, excess of cold weather … but also the smoke … it has a very strong impact in humans."
The Australian Capital Territory has the highest life expectancy in Australia, while the Northern Territory has the lowest.
Life expectancy estimates differ within the state and territory borders too and are generally higher for those living in capital cities compared with remote areas.
The US has posted its biggest two-year decline in life expectancy in almost a century with a 1.8-year drop in 2020 and a 0.9-year drop in 2021, according to provisional data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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"COVID-19 deaths contributed to nearly three-fourths or 74 per cent of the decline from 2019 to 2020 and 50 per cent of the decline from 2020 to 2021," the CDC said in late August
In the United Kingdom life expectancy at birth for males fell by seven weeks in the period 2018-2020, while there was almost no change for women.
The figures from the Office for National Statistics only incorporated deaths from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is the first time we have seen a decline when comparing non-overlapping time period since the series began in the early 1980s," said demographer Pamela Cobb.
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We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
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