NZ kids rise up life expectancy rankings

Children born in New Zealand in 2012 are likely to live into their 80s - almost at the top of the 194 countries covered in a recent World Health Organisation report.

The report ranks New Zealand males as having the fourth-highest life expectancy and females seventh.

The figures were for a baby born in 2012, and showed an increased life expectancy around the world, which does not surprise a local demographer.

In poor countries it was because fewer children were dying before their fifth birthday and in wealthier countries it was because fewer people were dying of heart disease and strokes before their 60th birthday, the WHO said.

New Zealand men were expected to live to, on average, 80.2 years of age - the same as Singaporean, Israeli and Italian men. Women should live to 84, the same as Portuguese women.

New Zealand demographer Arvind Zodgekar said in the past decade the life expectancy of people worldwide had jumped by about four years.

"We are keeping in line with most of the Western countries," he said.

To maintain our healthy life expectancy figures, healthcare needed to be accessible to the country's poorest residents, he said.

"Twenty years ago a visit to the doctor wasn't as expensive as it is now."

As people lived longer, the health system would need to deal with how to treat the body deteriorating, Mr Zodgekar said.

The WHO report said a boy born in 2012 in a high-income country could expect to live to about 76, which was 16 years more than a boy born in a low-income country. Girls in high-income countries were likely to live to the age of 82, compared with 63 in poor countries.

Based on global averages, a girl born in 2012 could expect to live to about 73 and a boy to 68, the report said. "This is six years longer than the average global life expectancy for a child born in 1990."

Nine sub-Saharan African countries - Angola, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria and Sierra Leone - were bottom of the report, with life expectancy younger than 55.

A separate report, released by the US Central Intelligence Agency in 2012, said women born in New Zealand expected to live for 82.81 years, and men to 78.7.

- Rebecca Quillam 

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