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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin
 
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spacing1What do we know about deaths among Indigenous people?

Indigenous Australians die at a younger age than non-Indigenous Australians. Currently, Indigenous women are expected to live until almost 73 years of age and Indigenous men are expected to live until around 67 years of age.

What is the age pattern of Indigenous deaths?

The age pattern of deaths for Indigenous people is different to that of other Australians. Measures used for assessment include the median age at death and age-specific death rates. (The median age at death, which is the age below which 50% of people die, partly reflects the age structures of the respective populations and is a less precise measure than age-specific death rates.)

In 2011, there were 2,558 deaths registered in Australia where the deceased person was identified as Indigenous [1].

In 2011, the median age at death for Indigenous men ranged from 50.3 years for those living in SA to 58.5 years for those living in NSW [1]. Levels were around 20 years less than those for non-Indigenous males, which ranged from 66.6 to 79.7 years. For Indigenous women, it ranged from 50.3 years for those living in SA to 66.2 years for those living in NSW. Levels were around 20 years less than those for non-Indigenous females, which ranged from 73.5 to 85.3 years.

In 2009, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revised its estimates for the expectation of life at birth for Indigenous people [2]. Indigenous males born in 2005-2007 could expect to live to 67.2 years (11.5 years less than the 78.7 years expected for non-Indigenous males). Indigenous females born in 2005-2007 could expect to live until 72.9 years (almost 10 years less than the 82.6 years expected for non-Indigenous females).

What are the main causes of death among Indigenous people?

The leading causes of death in 2006-2010 for Indigenous people were:

What is the Indigenous infant mortality rate?

Babies born to Indigenous women are more likely to die in their first year than those born to non-Indigenous women [1]. In 2009-2011, the infant mortality rate (see boxed information for details) for babies born to Indigenous women was highest in the NT (around 13 babies died for every 1,000 births) and lowest in NSW (less than five babies died for every 1,000 births). (The rate for the total Australian population was around four deaths for every 1,000 births in 2011.)

What do we know about Indigenous maternal mortality?

In 2003-2005 (the most recent period for which detailed data are available), six (10%) of the 60 maternal deaths where Indigenous status was known were of Indigenous women (Indigenous status was not reported in 8% of the deaths) [4].

Reflecting the higher rate of confinements among Indigenous women, the maternal mortality ratio for Indigenous women in 2003-2005 was 21.5 deaths per 100,000 confinements, almost three times higher than the ratio of 7.9 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous women [4]. For direct maternal deaths, the ratio was 7.2 for Indigenous women compared with 3.6 for non-Indigenous women.

References

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) Deaths, Australia, 2011. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009) Experimental life tables for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians: 2005-2007. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  3. Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (2012) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health performance framework: 2012 report. Canberra: Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, Department of Health and Ageing
  4. Sullivan E, Hall B, King J (2008) Maternal deaths in Australia 2003-2005. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
 
Last updated: 10 April 2013
 
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