Do Indigenous Australians age prematurely? The implications of life expectancy and health conditions of older Indigenous people for health and aged care policy

Philippa Cotter, John Condon, Tony Barnes, Ian Anderson, Leonard Smith, Teresa Cunningham

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Objective: To assess whether Indigenous Australians age prematurely compared with other Australians, as implied by Australian Government aged care policy, which uses age 50 years and over for population-based planning for Indigenous people compared with 70 years for non-indigenous people.

    Methods: Cross-sectional analysis of aged care assessment, hospital and health survey data comparing Indigenous and non-indigenous age-specific prevalence of health conditions. Analysis of life tables for Indigenous and non-indigenous populations comparing life expectancy at different ages.

    Results: At age 63 for women and age 65 for men, Indigenous people had the same life expectancy as non-indigenous people at age 70. There is no consistent pattern of a 20-year lead in age-specific prevalence of age-associated conditions for Indigenous compared with other Australians. There is high prevalence from middle-age onwards of some conditions, particularly diabetes (type unspecified), but there is little or no lead for others.

    Conclusion: The idea that Indigenous people age prematurely is not well supported by this study of a series of discrete conditions. The current focus and type of services provided by the aged care sector may not be the best way to respond to the excessive burden of chronic disease and disability of middle-aged Indigenous people.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)68-74
    Number of pages7
    JournalAustralian Health Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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