Kiwis should be living longer - demographer

New Zealand has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world - but we should be living even longer, a senior demographer says.

Anyone born in New Zealand is estimated to live past 80 on average, according to figures released by the Central Intelligence Agency that rank us with the 25th highest age expectancy when compared to 221 other countries.

However, 100 years ago New Zealand led the world, demographer Arvind Zodgekar said.

"We still have quite a good expectation of life. [But] access to primary health care has become much, much harder for middle and lower classes," said Mr Zodgekar, who is now retired.

Wealthy Monaco, with a state-funded health system, has the highest life expectancy at an average of 89.68 years.

Last on the list is the African state of Chad where the average life expectancy is 48.69 years.

Mr Zodgekar said it was a positive result that New Zealand should rank in the top 25, but it could be improved if access to primary health care was made easier for people on lower incomes.

"The progress has slowed down compared to the other countries," Mr Zodgekar said.

Evelyn Marsters, of the Centre for Development Studies at University of Auckland, said the general life expectancy figure did not properly reflect how some sectors of the community were more disadvantaged.

Some ethnicity groups in New Zealand have not had their life expectancy increase in the last 30 years, Ms Marsters said.

"A crude life expectancy measure isn't much in itself," she said.

"You need to break it down and look at gender and different ethnicities, people in different jobs, to get a real idea of where life expectancy is in New Zealand."

New Zealand women are expected to live until for 82.81 years, compared to men at 78.7.

Average life expectancy is higher in Australia (81.9), Japan (83.91) and Canada (81.48) but lower in America (78.49) and the United Kingdom (80.17).

Life expectancy at birth

-Monaco (1st) 89.68 years
-Japan (3rd) 83.91
-Australia (9th) 81.90
-Canada (12th) 81.48
-New Zealand (25th) 80.71
-United Kingdom (30th) 80.17
-America (51st) 78.49
-Chad (225th) 48.69

Source: Central Intelligence Agency


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