The number of years a person could expect to live in good health if current mortality and morbidity rates persist.
The particular measure of health expectancy used here is the number of years a person could expect to live independently, ie live without any functional limitation requiring the assistance of another person or complex assistive device. Hence it is also described as independent life expectancy. The measure uses information from the 1996, 2001 and 2006 Disability Surveys to calculate disability-adjusted life expectancy estimates.
Health expectancy is a summary measure of a population’s health that captures both the “quantity” and “quality” of life dimensions of health. Independent life expectancy at birth is a positive measure, capturing expectations of a life free from functional limitation that requires assistance. Improvements in health expectancy reflect changes in social and economic conditions, lifestyle changes, medical advances and better access to health services.
Current level and trends
In 2006, males and females had an independent life expectancy at birth of 67.4 years and 69.2 years respectively. The gap between males and females in independent life expectancy at birth was 1.8 years in 2006, a decrease of two years since 2001. For the total population, independent life expectancy at birth has improved since 1996 (an increase of 2.7 years for males, 1.7 years for females).
It should be noted that the 2006 Disability Survey reported a significant decline in the levels of disability to those reported in the previous survey, due to a range of methodological and other factors. Statistics New Zealand has advised caution when comparing the results of the 2006 Disability Survey with those from previous surveys.
Figure H1.1 Independent life expectancy at birth, by sex, 1996, 2001 and 2006
Source: Ministry of Health
Independent life expectancy for Māori was produced in the same way as for the total New Zealand population. These ethnic-specific statistics are comparable with those for the total population.
Māori males had an independent life expectancy at birth of 62.0 years in 2006. The figure for Māori females was 64.2 years, a gender gap of 2.2 years. There are large ethnic inequalities in health expectancy, despite a very rapid improvement in survivorship for Māori in recent years. In 2006, the gap in independent life expectancy at birth between Māori and non-Māori was 6.8 years for males and 6.2 years for females (the independent life expectancy at birth for non-Māori was 68.8 years and 70.4 years for males and females respectively).
Figure H1.2 Independent life expectancy at birth, Māori and non-Māori population, by sex, 2006
Source: Ministry of Health
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