Men catching up on life expectancy but birth rate barely at maintenance


New Zealanders are living fractionally longer but the birth rate is barely holding its own according to Statistics analysis of births and deaths between 2006 and 2008.

Life expectancy at birth increased by .2 years for both men and women.

A baby girl can expect to live, on average, 82.4 years and a baby boy 78.4 years, based on mortality rates experienced in 2007–09. The latest life expectancy figures are included in the abridged period life table for 2007–09.

“Life expectancy for women is still higher than it is for men, but the gap has narrowed from more than six years in 1975–77 to four years in 2007–09,” Population Statistics manager Denise McGregor said. “Since 1975–77, life expectancy at birth has increased by 6.9 years for females and 9.4 years for males,” Mrs McGregor said. 

For years life expectancy has been one area where women have had an advantage over men. Women’s life expectancy is still growing but men’s life expectancy has grown faster, I wonder why?

Other points of interest from today’s release are:

  • in the first decade of the new millennium there were more than half a million (588,500) live births in New Zealand
  • there were 62,540 live births registered in New Zealand in the December 2009 year, down from 64,340 in 2008
  • the birth rate was 2.1 births per woman in 2009, down from 2.2 in 2008
  • deaths registered in 2009 totalled 28,960, down slightly from 29,190 in 2008. 

These figures reflect the declining birth rate and ageing population which is typical of most developed countries.

The birth rate has to exceed 2% to maintain the population to take account of early deaths, so at best 2.1% is barely maintenance.

It’s become much easier for women to make their way in what used to be considered men’s roles but not nearly as much progress in making what were traditionally seen  as women’s roles more attractive for men.

Career demands on both men and women are not conducive to having and raising a family and a sorry flipside to the rise of women in the workforce has been a devaluing of the role of parenting.

Where women of my generation tended to assume that we’d marry and have children, neither of those options are necessarily natural considerations for young women now. A few more men are taking time out of the paid workforce to take on the primary care role in family but they’re still a minority.

It’s women who have the babies and it’s still largely women who do more parenting and I can understand why these days they might be choosing to delay having children, have fewer or end up not having any at all.

Missing numbers


 The commentary on births and deaths in the year to the end of September records  a decline in infant mortality and still births:

During the September 2009 year, the number of infant deaths (under one year of age) registered in New Zealand totalled 290. The infant mortality rate (infant deaths per 1,000 live births) has dropped over the last 40 years. In the September 2009 year, the infant mortality rate was 4.5 per 1,000, down from 5.5 in the September 1999 year, and 17.6 in 1969. The Māori infant mortality rate was 6.2 per 1,000 in the September 2009 year, down from 23.0 in 1969.

 Graph, Infant mortality rate, 1963–2009.

Neonatal deaths (under four weeks of age) made up 55 percent of infant deaths in the September 2009 year. The neonatal mortality rate (neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births) was 2.5 in 2009, down from 2.9 in 1999. The post-neonatal mortality rate (infant deaths over 27 days of age per 1,000 live births) also dropped, from 2.6 in 1999, to 2.1 per 1,000 in 2009.

Australia has also experienced a drop in infant mortality rates in the last decade. In the December 1997 year, New Zealand’s infant mortality rate was 6.5 per 1,000 live births, compared with 5.3 per 1,000 in Australia. By 2007, New Zealand’s infant mortality rate had dropped to 4.9 per 1,000 and Australia’s rate had dropped to 4.2 per 1,000. (The 2007 data is the most recent available for Australia.)

Scotland (4.7 per 1,000 live births), and England and Wales (4.8) had similar infant mortality rates to New Zealand’s in 2007. However, a number of other low-fertility countries had lower infant mortality rates: Sweden (2.2), Finland (2.7), Norway (3.1), France (3.6), and Denmark (4.0).

There were 380 stillbirths in the September 2009 year. This corresponds to 6.0 stillbirths per 1,000 births (live and stillbirths combined).

The sharp decline in infant mortality is encouraging, but I am left with a question – how many of the babies who survived received some sort of damage during birth which left them with a disability?

These stats are for births and deaths so there is nothing untoward about the absence of any records of babies who were damaged during birth and survived, here.

But those numbers ought to be recorded somewhere and readily available and they don’t appear to be.

The optimum outcome of pregnancy is not just a live birth but a healthy baby.

There are growing concerns about our maternity system. The trend in the number of babies who are damaged during birth but survive would be one measure of whether or not these concerns are justified.

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