Are Life Expectancy Statistics Hiding Something? Stephen Wealthall 20th Mar 2014
Statistics showing improving Life Expectancy are often published in support of statements as to how things are ‘improving’, often in commenting on socio-political changes or improvements in medical services. Due to the way age at death influences the complexly derived figure called ‘Life Expectancy’, this may inaccurately reflect what is happening to the age at which most people die and lead to false and optimistic claims about improvements which are really a statistical mirage. This piece was written in attempt to explain why the improvements in ‘Life Expectancy’ in different ethnic groups in New Zealand may be illusory as they do not allow a proper picture of what the influences on age of death are, and possibly obscures an important but worrying fact about ‘increases’ in Maori longevity. Changes in infant mortality may fully explain an apparent increase in Maori life expectancy whilst there may have been no increase in the usual age of death, and there could even have been a decrease.