New research published today in the Journal of Primary Health Care shows that New Zealanders will die earlier than Australians and its heart disease and cancer that will do it.
The research calculated five indicators of old-age structure to find that Australia had an advantageous ageing structure compared to New Zealand. However, in both countries the indigenous populations were significantly disadvantaged when compared to the general population.
Until 2050, both countries will have an increase in the proportion of people aged older than 60, with people older than 80 years increasing by 200 percent during that time. The average life expectancy at birth and then at age 60 is higher in Australia than New Zealand, and that gap is predicted to widen before 2050.
Cardiovascular disease rates are higher in New Zealand than Australia, and cardiovascular disease mortality is higher in New Zealand across all socioeconomic groups. New Zealanders are less likely to receive cholesterol-lowering medication and some heart procedures like having stents fitted or coronary artery bypass surgery.
Australians are better cancer survivors with patient survival lower in New Zealand - even if the same number of people were diagnosed. Between 2000 and 2007 New Zealand women were 15 percent more likely to die from cancer; men were 5 percent more likely than our Australian mates. In addition, Australia showed significant improvements in overall five-year cancer survival whereas New Zealand had a minimal increase.
The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners publishes the Journal. President Dr Samantha Murton said, "The aging of our population is something that we are going to have to deal with in general practice.
"It is a significant concern that the indigenous population fairs worse and that New Zealanders are disadvantaged compared to their Australian counterparts.
"There are many causes and we need further research, but if we can make progress with health inequities, and cardiovascular and cancer treatment as suggested in the paper we might make some in-roads and reduce the burden on patients and an already strained health system."
The findings indicate that public health policy needs to target aging in New Zealand as a major goal in advancing the ‘Ageing Well’ policy advocated by the Government.
The research report, Ageing badly: indicators of old-age structure in Australia and New Zealand was authored by Yoram Barak MD, MHA, Sona Neehoff PhD, and Paul Glue MB ChB (Otago), MD (Bristol), MRCPsych. It can be read in the Journal of Primary Health Care.