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War Impacts on New Zealand Life Expectancy

Embargoed until 10:45am – 19 September 2006

War Impacts on New Zealand Life Expectancy

Ten percent of New Zealand males born in the mid-1890s died as a result of war, a new population study released today by Statistics New Zealand reveals. Without the direct impact of deaths in World War I and II, life expectancy at birth would have been five years higher for males born in the mid-1890s, and three years higher for males born in the late 1910s. These are among the key results from A History of Survival in New Zealand, an internationally pioneering study of survival and mortality.

The study shows that the average length of life has risen significantly from 51 years for males born in the late 1870s to 69 years for males born around 1930. For females, life expectancy at birth has risen from 55 to 75 years. These figures are from cohort life tables that track the mortality experience of the group of people (a cohort) born each year from 1876. The cohort life tables provide a more accurate measure of life expectancy than conventional period life tables, which measure mortality over a three-year period. The study shows that life expectancy at all ages has been much higher than indicated by period life tables.

New Zealand is one of the few countries with relatively complete and detailed birth, death and migration information dating back to the late 1800s. This has enabled the construction of cohort life tables that will be updated and extended each year to provide an ongoing measure of survival and mortality in New Zealand.

No other country has a comparable study covering the entire population over an extended time period. For the first time in any New Zealand population study, the deaths of New Zealanders in overseas wars have also been included.

The study shows that about 23 percent of people born in the late 1870s died before they reached their 15th birthday. But the proportion of those who died was 15 percent for those born around 1900, 7 percent for those born around 1930, 3 percent for those born around 1960, and 1 percent for those born around 1990.

A History of Survival in New Zealand provides a comprehensive historical time series of births, deaths and external migration for the entire New Zealand population. The study will also be a basis for future work in the fields of mortality, population and health.

The full report is available on the Statistics New Zealand website (www.stats.govt.nz).

Brian Pink
Government Statistician


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