Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on life expectancy in Australia, 2020-22

Tim Adair*, Brian Houle, Vladimir Canudas-Romo

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Australia provides a valuable international case study of life expectancy during the pandemic. In contrast to many other countries, it experienced relatively stringent restrictions and low COVID-19 mortality during 2020–21, followed by relaxation of these restrictions when high vaccination rates were achieved. This study measures Australia's life expectancy trends and the contributions of age group and causes of death, during the pandemic.

    Trends in life expectancy at birth in Australia and its states and territories were measured from 2020 to 2022. The contributions of age group and cause of death to these trends were measured using decomposition methods. Life expectancy was compared with other high-income countries.

    Australia's life expectancy fell by more than half a year in 2022, following a sharp increase in 2020 and moderate decline in 2021. For the 3 years 2020 to 2022, life expectancy was 0.13 years (95% confidence interval 0.07-0.19) higher for males and 0.09 years (0.03-0.14) higher for females versus 2017–19. Australia's life expectancy increase in 2020 was larger than that in the vast majority of other high-income countries, but its decline in 2022 was greater than in other countries whose life expectancy rose in the first year of the pandemic. The small negative contribution of COVID-19 deaths to life expectancy in Australia was more than offset by lower non-communicable disease mortality. There were only small differences in life expectancy change between the states with the most stringent restrictions (Victoria and New South Wales) and the rest of Australia.

    Australia's life expectancy trends during 2020–22 were relatively favourable compared with other high-income countries, with the exception of its sharp decline in 2022 once restrictions were loosened.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1735-1744
    JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
    Issue number6
    Early online date25 Sept 2023
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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