Why Australian men live the longest in the world

A new study challenges international life expectancies.

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  • A new method for calculating life expectancies shows that Australian men live the longest.
  • Among women, the Swiss have the longest life spans.
  • The new research takes into account historical mortality conditions.


A new way of measuring life expectancy finds that Australian men live longer than other men around the world.

This research is based on the approach called Lagged Cohort Life Expectancy (LCLE), which looks at the historical mortality conditions that older generations of today had to experience.

By utilizing this method across data from 15 countries with higher life expectancies in Europe, North America and Asia, the researchers found Australian men living the longest, up to 74.1 years. American men, by this study, live up to 71.57 years. Among women, the Swiss females are expected to live up to 79.

Dr. Collin Payne of the Australian National University (ANU), explained why a new kind of calculation was necessary to estimate potential life spans.

"Most measures of life expectancy are just based on mortality rates at a given time," Dr. Payne said, adding: "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."

What the conventional way of estimating doesn't take into account, however, according to Dr. Payne, are the actual life courses of people as they progress towards old age. The new methodology incorporates mortality rates from 50, 60 and 70 years ago, forming a fuller picture.

Longer lifespans: A coming crisis or reason to celebrate?

The big difference, shares Dr. Payne, is that their strategy compares groups of people who were born in the same year and would have experienced the same kind of conditions during their lives. Focusing on that can illuminate whether a person is reaching the life expectancy of their cohort. By separating "early" deaths from "late" deaths, the researchers aimed to figure out the age at which someone would be an "above-average" survivor.

For example, if an Australian man lived over 74, he'd be outliving half of his cohort. Conversely, dying before the age 74 would mean the person did not live up to the life expectancy of the group.

Why do the Australian men live so long? After all, more conventional life expectancy wisdom would point to men in Japan or the Nordic countries as living the longest.

Dr. Payne thinks the reason lies in the positive conditions of life in Australia.

"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," points out the scientist. "Simple things like having enough to eat, and not seeing a lot of major conflict play a part."

The Australian women also fared well in the new longevity rankings, coming in second after the Swiss.

Here are the top 5 countries (by age):

Men

Women

Australia (74.1)

Switzerland (79.0)

Sweden (74.0)

Australia (78.8)

Switzerland (73.7)

Norway (78.6)

Norway (73.1)

Sweden (78.4)

Netherlands (72.6)

Netherlands (78.2)

You can check out the paper "Tracking progress in mean longevity: The Lagged Cohort Life Expectancy (LCLE) approach" from Michel Guillot of the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Payne published in the journal Population Studies.

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