Life expectancy is on the rise for Australians as more of us live into our 80s, 90s and even 100s, but are we actually pushing the boundary of living longer than our ancestors?
Research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has revealed the average Australian is living longer than ever, thanks to steady rises in life expectancy and the average age of death. Now, someone born between 2019-2021 in Australia is expected to live until their early-to-mid 80s, compared to the early 70s had they been born in 1964.
The news is even greater for those of us wanting to notch a century; one in 72 people are expected to live to be 100 or older. However, over 90% of deaths for our centenarians occur between the ages of 101-104, meaning we haven’t seen any drastic change in the number of people living well into their 100s or Australia’s maximum age of death.
With that in mind, why are we living longer on average, even without pushing the boundaries of extreme longevity? And is it possible to predict who might be the first generation to live past 110 consistently? Let’s take a closer look.
Healthier diets, active lifestyles and more advanced medical interventions give Australians a greater chance at living longer. We’re also better protected against infectious diseases thanks to vaccinations and antibiotics – the COVID-19 pandemic reminded us of the impacts of viral diseases, something our predecessors were not as well shielded from.
Additionally, there’s lower infant and child mortality and fewer deaths as a result of war, two factors that are considerably different compared to a century ago.
As for the exact reasons why Aussies live into their 100s? It’s anyone’s guess. Some say a cup of black coffee daily, others a sweet treat. Some avoided smoking and drinking, while others downed a shot of whisky or glass of sherry on the regular. There is no exact combination of genetics, environment and lifestyle factors that help us live past 100.
Compared to other countries, Australia sits among the top few for life expectancy; Hong Kong (85.5 years), Macao (85.4) and Japan (84.7) have the highest average life expectancy with Australia among the next handful of nations with an average in the 83rd year.
Interestingly, if you look at other Western nations, Canada (82.6), New Zealand (82.2) and the United Kingdom (80.7) are far behind Australia, while the United States (76.3) is noticeably lower.
And if you want to take a look across the board to see who’s living the longest right now, you’ll find Spain’s Maria Branyas and Japan’s Fusa Tatsumi are both verified as being 116.
In Australia, it’s hard to say when we’ll see a consistent number of supercentenarians. According to some experts, the maximal lifespan for humans is unlimited with social and medical improvements creating the perfect environment for longer lives. Meanwhile, others believe the human body can only live for so long based on its own biological limits.
Without any way to accurately predict the future, there’s every chance the baby boomer generation will be among the first to push the boundaries of maximal life expectancy. Australia’s percentage of nonagenarians and centenarians is on the rise, so we can expect to see more healthy boomer supercentenarians. We might even see a select few live into their 120s.