Skip to main content
Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWYZ
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.

Warning

This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.

Contents


LIFE, EXPECTATION OF

The expectation of life at any age is the average remaining lifetime for persons of this age, assuming that mortality rates at each age continue at the current non-Maori level.

The expectation of life at various ages for the non-Maori and Maori populations is shown below. These expectations are taken from New Zealand Life Tables, 1955–57, prepared by the Department of Statistics.

Life Expectancy (Years)
Males Females
Age (Years) Non-Maori Maori Non-Maori Maori
0 68·88 57·23 73·88 58·68
1 69·47 60·30 74·17 60·80
2 68·60 59·89 73·29 60·35
3 67·69 59·17 72·38 59·63
4 66·76 58·36 71·44 58·80
5 65·81 57·52 70·49 57·91
10 60·98 53·15 65·60 53·24
20 51·44 44·12 55·87 44·14
30 42·19 35·57 46·17 35·20
40 32·84 27·31 36·65 26·55
50 23·93 19·43 27·53 19·28
60 16·19 13·03 19·16 13·38
70 10·08 8·84 11·91 9·12
80 5·71 5·44 6·47 5·75

Life expectancy at birth for a Maori male increased by 3·18 years in the interval 1950–52 to 1955–57, with that for females increasing by 2·80 years. This was a substantial increase in a short period and is evidence that, although Maori life expectancy is relatively low, it is improving at a fast rate. In this interval between the construction of the first and second sets of Maori life tables, the improvement was not, however, so spectacular at higher ages.

The expectation of life of Maoris is much shorter than that of the non-Maori population. A comparison at age 0 shows a life expectation which is 11·65 years longer for non-Maori males and 15·20 years longer for European females.

Improvement in non-Maori life expectancy since 1880, for both sexes, has been most striking for the younger ages, but has been relatively small for the advanced ages. Progress in medical science, coupled with improved social conditions, has resulted in substantial reductions in mortality among infants and children from infectious diseases; on the other hand, diseases of middle and old age are less amenable to control. The following table displays the life expectancy revealed by each life table compiled since 1880 for the three exact ages of 1, 20, and 60 years. The overall longer span of life enjoyed by females is evident.

Improvement in Non-Maori Life Expectancy Since 1880
Life Tables Life Expectancy (Years)
Males Aged Females Aged
0 20 60 0 20 60
1880–92 54·44 44·55 14·95 57·26 46·39 16·39
1891–95 55·29 45·47 15·06 58·09 47·19 16·55
1896–1900 57·37 46·34 15·33 59·95 47·91 16·54
1901–05 58·09 46·74 15·40 60·55 48·23 16·64
1906–10 59·17 47·20 15·51 61·76 48·77 16·77
1911–15 60·96 47·61 15·54 63·48 49·14 16·72
1921–22 62·76 48·66 16·03 65·43 50·36 17·29
1925–27 63·99 48·93 15·79 66·57 50·96 17·23
1931 65·04 49·61 16·22 67·88 51·28 17·30
1934–38 65·46 49·89 16·06 68·45 52·02 17·49
1950–52 68·29 51·15 16·19 72·43 54·64 18·53
1955–57 68·88 51·44 16·19 73·88 55·87 19·16

Prior to the Second World War, the New Zealand non-Maori population was probably the longest lived of any national population group in the world. This pre-eminent position has not been maintained, however, although New Zealand still takes a very high place in the international ranking list. The table below compares the life expectancy at birth for the non-Maori population with that for selected overseas countries. In all cases the expectancies are the most recent available.

Life Expectancy, New Zealand and Other Countries
Country Period Life Expectancy at Birth (Years)
Males Females
New Zealand* 1955–57 68·88 73·88
Australia 1953–55 67·14 72·75
Canada 1950–52 66·33 70·83
Denmark 1951–55 69·87 72·60
England and Wales 1956 67·76 73·36
France 1952–56 65·04 71·15
Netherlands 1953–55 71·0 73·9
Norway 1951–55 71·11 74·70
Sweden 1951–55 70·49 73·43
South Africa 1945–47 63·78 68·31
United States of America 1958 67·2 73·7
U.S.S.R. 1955–56 63·0 69·0

*Non-Maori population.

†White population.

by John Victor Tuwhakahewa Baker, M.A., M.COM., D.P.A., Government Statistician, Wellington.

Co-creator

John Victor Tuwhakahewa Baker, M.A., M.COM., D.P.A., Government Statistician, Wellington.

Last updated 23-Apr-09