New Zealanders are living longer with life expectancy at birth for the population as a whole now sitting at 80 years for men, and 83.5 years for women, based on death rates in 2017–2019.
According to Stats NZ, men are living six months longer when compared with 2012–2014 figures, and by two years since 2005–2007. Life expectancy for women has increased by three months and 1.3 years over the same time periods.
“While life expectancy is still increasing, the increase over the last few years is smaller than in the past,” says Stats NZ’s Population Estimates and Projections Manager, Hamish Slack. “Increases in life expectancy were highest in the late 1980s to early 2000s.”
The gap between men and women life expectancy at birth has narrowed from 4.1 years in 2005–2007 to 3.5 years in 2017–2019.
Māori life expectancy has increased, but gap persists, says Slack. Life expectancy at birth was 73.4 years for Māori men in 2017–2019 (up 3.1 years from 2005–2007), and 77.1 years for Māori women (up two years from 2005–2007).
In comparison, non-Māori men are expected to live to 80.9 years, while non-Māori women are expected to live to 84.4 years.
The gap between Māori and non-Māori life expectancy at birth was 7.5 years for men and 7.3 years for women in 2017–2019. This is down from 8.6 years for men and 7.9 years for women in 2005–2007, and from 8.8 and 9.3 years respectively in 1995–1997.
“The gap has grown slightly from 2012–2014,” says Slack. “However, the underestimation of the 2013 Māori population estimates may have impacted the 2012–2014 life tables. Therefore, we have focused on comparing over a longer period.”
There are regional differences though. In the 2017–2019 period, both men and women in the Tasman region were estimated to have the highest life expectancy at birth (81.2 and 84.5 years respectively), followed by those in Auckland (81 years for men and 84.3 years for women). Life expectancy at birth was lowest in the Gisborne region (76.8 years for men and 80.6 years for women).
Differences in life expectancy at birth reflect several interrelated factors, including socioeconomic and health factors. For example, the 2018 Census showed that 22% of people aged 15 years or over in Gisborne were regular smokers, compared with 11% in the Auckland region and 12% in the Tasman region.