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

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are much more likely than non-Indigenous people to die before they are old [1][2]. The most recent estimates from the ABS show that an Indigenous boy born in 2010-2012 was likely to live to 69.1 years, about 10 years less than a non-Indigenous boy (who could expect to live to 79.7 years) (Figure 1) [1]. An Indigenous girl born in 2010-2012 was likely to live to 73.7 years, which is almost 10 years less than a non-Indigenous girl (83.1 years). (There have been a number of changes to how figures are calculated throughout time, so recent estimates cannot be compared to older estimates.)

Figure 1. Expectations of life at birth for Indigenous and non-Indigenous males and females, 2010-2012

Expectations of life at birth for Indigenous and non-Indigenous boys and girls, 2010-2012

Source: ABS, 2013 [1]

In 2013, there were 2,811 deaths registered for Indigenous people [2]. Many Indigenous deaths are incorrectly counted as non-Indigenous because the person or family are not identified as Indigenous - the actual number of Indigenous deaths is not known, but would be higher than the number registered as such.

The leading causes of death for Indigenous people in 2012 were:

Babies born to Indigenous women are twice as likely to die in their first year than those born to non-Indigenous women [2]. In 2011-2013, the Indigenous infant mortality rate for NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT was highest in the NT and lowest in NSW.

What is a 'rate'?

One way of looking at how common a disease is in a population is by calculating a 'rate'. A rate is the number of cases of a disease divided by the population, for a specific amount of time. By calculating rates, you can compare how common a disease is in different populations (like Indigenous and non-Indigenous people) or between sexes (men and women). You can also calculate rates for deaths and compare the number of deaths in two different populations.

There is a special calculation for 'infant mortality rates'. To calculate this rate, the number of infants (children under one year of age) who died in one calendar year is divided by the number of live births in the same year.

References

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) Life tables for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2010-2012. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) Deaths, Australia, 2013. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) Causes of death, Australia, 2012. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
 
Last updated: 17 June 2015
 
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