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Here’s to a long, healthy lifestyle

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Obesity is shaping as the biggest obstacle to humans reaching a life span of 150 years or more, AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton has warned.

Commenting on official figures showing that average life expectancy has increased by two-and-a-half years in the past decade, Dr Hambleton said it would become increasingly commonplace for people to live well beyond 100 years.

“The person who will live to 150 [years] has already been born,” the AMA President told the Daily Telegraph. “The only obstacle may be obesity. Obesity has been proven to increase cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. As long as we take it seriously, our life expectancy will continue to increase.”

Less than 147,100 people died last year, a bare 0.1 per cent increase from 2011, while during the same period the population grew by 1.8 per cent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The figures reflect great strides that have been taken in reducing infant mortality, which has fallen from five deaths per 1000 live births in 2002 to 3.3 per 1000 live births last year. Much of this improvement has been achieved in the Indigenous community, where the infant mortality rate halved in the 10 years to 2012 from 12.6 to 6.4.

But more people at all ages are surviving. The nation’s standardised death rate has shrunk from 6.8 per cent 1000 people in 2002 to 5.5 in 2012.

Improvements in survival rates at all ages have been reflected in a shift in the age groups in which most deaths occur.

In 1975, the mode of mortality among men was in the 70 to 74 years age group, which accounted for 8450 of all male deaths, while among women it was in the 80 to 84 years age bracket.

By 2012, the mode of mortality for both genders had advanced. Among men, it was the 80 to 84 year age group, closely followed by the 85 to 89 year age bracket, while among women it was the 85 to 89 year age group.

The ABS said improvements in survival rates meant that a boy born between 2010 and 2012 could expect to live, on average, 79.9 years, while a girl born at the same time could expect to live to 84.3 years.

Despite the overall improvement in survival rates, the ABS data showed that in recent years deaths among children have been growing at a faster pace than the rest of the population.

Though still small in absolute terms, the number of 10 to 14-year-olds who died in 2012 jumped 6.8 per cent, and by 4.8 per cent among 15 to 19-year-olds.

Dr Hambleton said the biggest single cause of deaths in older children was accidents, and it was important to examine the underlying causes “to make sure we are not exposing our children to danger”.

Adrian Rollins

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