29 Aug 2015

Longer lives, longer illnesses

2:09 pm on 29 August 2015

New Zealanders are living longer, but they're also spending more time battling illness.

Elderly couple

Photo: 123rf.com

The finding comes in a University of Washington study of 188 countries.

It found from 1990 to 2013 the life expectancy of men in this country increased by six years, and women by four years.

However, the age to which people live to without getting sick didn't increase as much - and they now spend an extra year with a disabling illness.

Otago University's head of preventative and social medicine Robin Gauld said the figures showed the need to focus on elderly health, as many age-related diseases were preventable.

"The Government is... pushing the message out but perhaps it's an issue of having to move more quickly in terms of how we actually respond," Mr Gauld said.

"Populations around the globe are getting older and the burden of disease is not shifting, it's just shifting up the age scale."

Elderly hands (file photo)

Photo: 123rf

On average, men will reach 68 before they are likely to fall ill - and women 70.

The disabling conditions include back and neck pain, hip problems, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease common in smokers, Alzheimers, cancer and stroke victims.

The life expectancy for women in New Zealand is 83.2 years, and men 79.5 years.