Progress in closing the gap in life expectancy at birth for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, 1967-2012

Nick Georges, Steven L. Guthridge, Shu Qin Li, John R. Condon, Tony Barnes, Yuejen Zhao

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Objectives: To compare long term changes in mortality and life expectancy at birth (LE) of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and of the overall Australian population; to determine the contributions of changes in mortality in specific age groups to changes in LE for each population.

    Design, setting, participants: Retrospective trend analysis of death and LE data for the NT Aboriginal and Australian populations, 1967e2012.

    Main outcome measures: LE estimates based on abridged life tables; mortality estimates (deaths per 100 000 population); and age decomposition of LE changes by sex and time period.

    Results: Between 1967 and 2012, LE increased for both NT Aboriginal and all Australians; the difference in LE between the two populations declined by 4.6 years for females, but increased by one year for males. Between 1967e1971 and 1980e1984, LE of NT Aboriginal people increased rapidly, particularly through reduced infant mortality; from 1980e1984 to 1994e1998, there was little change; from 1994e1998 to 2008e2012, there were modest gains in older age groups. Decomposition by age group identified the persistent and substantial contribution of the 35e74-year age groups to the difference in LE between NT Aboriginal people and all Australians.

    Conclusions: Early gains in LE for NT Aboriginal people are consistent with improvements in nutrition, maternal and infant care, and infectious disease control. A rapid epidemiological transition followed, when LE gains in younger age groups plateaued and non-communicable diseases became more prevalent. Recent LE gains, across all adult age groups, are consistent with improved health service access and chronic disease management. If LE is to continue improving, socioeconomic disadvantage and its associated risks must be reduced.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)25-30
    Number of pages6
    JournalMedical Journal of Australia
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2017


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