Life expectancy, 1920?1922 to 2009?2011

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Canadian Megatrends

On the journey of life, the commuting time for each of us is different. Life expectancy?an indicator widely used to explore the general health of a population?is an estimate of the average number of years someone is expected to live from birth or another age, based on death rates calculated for a specific period. Obviously, this is just an average; not everyone will live for precisely the expected length of time. Those who live longer than their life expectancy have often benefited from developments that extend life, such as advancements in the treatment and prevention of disease.

Improvements in life expectancy in Canada

Life expectancy in Canada has greatly improved since the early 20th century. The life expectancy at birth for men has increased by 20.5 years, from 58.8 years in 1920?1922 to 79.3 years in 2009?2011. During the same period, the life expectancy of women increased by 23.0 years, from 60.6 years to 83.6 years.

Life expectancy has historically been lower for men than for women. While the gap was small in 1920?1922 (1.8 years), it reached a high of 7.3 years in 1975?1977 and narrowed to 4.3 years in 2009?2011.

The widening of the gap was partly the result of fewer women dying during childbirth. The narrowing was related to the decline in deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases, which generally affect men more than women.

Life expectancy at birth

Lower life expectancy at birth during the early 20th century was, in part, a reflection of high levels of infant mortality. About 1 in 10 Canadian babies died within the first year of life in 1921, compared with about 1 in 200 in 2011.

Chart 1: Life expectancy at birth by sex, Canada, 1920?1922 to 2009?2011
Description for Chart 1
Chart 1: Life expectancy at birth, by sex, Canada, 1920?1922 to 2009?2011
Year Men at birth Women at birth
1920?1922 58.84 60.60
1925?1927 60.47 62.33
1930?1932 60.00 62.06
1935?1937 61.34 63.66
1940?1942 63.04 66.31
1945?1947 65.06 68.62
1950?1952 66.40 70.90
1955?1957 67.68 72.95
1960?1962 68.44 74.26
1965?1967 68.73 75.25
1970?1972 69.58 76.58
1975?1977 70.47 77.79
1980?1982 72.03 79.16
1985?1987 73.29 79.99
1990?1992 74.61 80.96
1995?1997 75.42 81.15
2000?2002 76.92 82.03
2005?2007 78.17 82.78
2009?2011 79.33 83.60

Life expectancy of one-year-olds

The large gains that Canadians experienced in life expectancy at birth were accompanied by smaller gains in life expectancy at other ages.

In 1920?1922, one-year-old boys were expected to live until age 64.7 and one-year-old girls until age 65.3. This was higher than life expectancy at birth by 5.8 years for men and 4.7 years for women. This difference decreased to less than half a year by 2009?2011 as a result of the large reduction in infant mortality. Overall, from 1920?1922 to 2009?2011, the life expectancy of one-year old boys increased by 15.0 years and the life expectancy of one-year-old girls increased by 18.6 years.

Chart 2: Total number of expected years of life for Canadian men at birth, age 1, and age 65, 1920?1922 to 2009?2011
Description for Chart 2
Chart 2: Total number of expected years of life for Canadian men?at birth, age 1, and age 65, 1920?1922 to 2009?2011
Year Men at birth Men at age 1 Men at age 65
1920?1922 58.84 64.71 78.04
1925?1927 60.47 66.01 78.28
1930?1932 60.00 65.57 77.98
1935?1937 61.34 66.25 77.97
1940?1942 63.04 67.04 77.81
1945?1947 65.06 68.51 78.18
1950?1952 66.40 69.31 78.31
1955?1957 67.68 70.01 78.38
1960?1962 68.44 70.51 78.56
1965?1967 68.73 70.48 78.58
1970?1972 69.58 71.00 78.87
1975?1977 70.47 71.49 79.17
1980?1982 72.03 72.82 79.65
1985?1987 73.29 73.92 80.01
1990?1992 74.61 75.14 80.81
1995?1997 75.42 75.89 81.04
2000?2002 76.92 77.36 81.98
2005?2007 78.17 78.60 83.00
2009?2011 79.33 79.75 83.82
Chart 3: Total number of expected years of life for Canadian women?at birth, age 1, and age 65, 1920?1922 to 2009?2011
Description for Chart 3
Chart 3: Total number of expected years of life for Canadian women?at birth, age 1, and age 65, 1920?1922 to 2009?2011
Year Women at birth Women at age 1 Women at age 65
1920?1922 60.60 65.33 78.55
1925?1927 62.33 66.90 78.97
1930?1932 62.06 66.64 78.72
1935?1937 63.66 67.68 78.85
1940?1942 66.31 69.63 79.07
1945?1947 68.62 71.49 79.60
1950?1952 70.90 73.36 80.00
1955?1957 72.95 74.96 80.59
1960?1962 74.26 76.01 81.11
1965?1967 75.25 76.77 81.76
1970?1972 76.58 77.77 82.66
1975?1977 77.79 78.71 83.30
1980?1982 79.16 79.83 84.02
1985?1987 79.99 80.54 84.35
1990?1992 80.96 81.43 84.97
1995?1997 81.15 81.57 84.90
2000?2002 82.03 82.41 85.52
2005?2007 82.78 83.17 86.07
2009?2011 83.60 83.98 86.73

Life expectancy of 65-year-olds

In 1920?1922, Canadian men who had lived to age 65 could expect to live for 13 more years, and women could expect to live for 13.5 more years (to age 78.0 and 78.5 respectively). The expected total life span of 65-year-olds was substantially higher than life expectancy at birth: 19.2 years higher for men and 18.0 years higher for women.

In 2009?2011, 65-year-old men were expected to live until they were 83.8, while 65-year-old women were expected to live until the age of 86.7. This means that from 1920?1922 to 2009?2011, the life expectancies of 65-year-olds increased by 5.8 years for men and 8.2 years for women. This is a much smaller gain than the 20-year increase in life expectancy for newborns during this same period.

Gains in life expectancy

Most of the gains in life expectancy from 1920?1922 to 2009?2011 were attributable to the prevention of death among younger people. For example, childhood immunization against infectious diseases helped to reduce death at early ages. Health awareness campaigns and associated legislation aimed at preventing injury, such as mandatory seat-belt use, also helped to prevent deaths across a broad age range.

People aged 65 and older have experienced modest gains in life expectancy, in part because of advancements in the prevention and treatment of circulatory diseases and, more recently, the treatment of cancer.


Definitions

Life expectancy: Average number of years an individual could be expected to live, based on current patterns of mortality. This indicator reflects environmental conditions in a country, the health of its people, the quality of care they receive when they are sick, and their living conditions.

Expected years of life: Sum of the age reached and the life expectancy for that age.

References

Cutler, D. M., and E. Meara. 2001. “Changes in the Age Distribution of Mortality over the 20th Century.” NBER Working Paper Series. no. 8556. Cambridge, Massachusetts: National Bureau of Economic Results.

Decady, Y., and L. Greenberg. 2014. Ninety years of change in life expectancy, Health at a Glance. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-624-X.

Greenberg, L. and C. Normandin. 2011. Disparities in life expectancy at birth, Health at a Glance. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-624-X.

Nagunar, D. 1986. Longevity and Historical Life Tables 1921-1981 (Abridged): Canada and the Provinces. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 89-506-XPB.

Public Health Agency of Canada. 2008. The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada. Available at: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cphorsphc-respcacsp/2008/fr-rc/pdf/CPHO-Report-e.pdf. Accessed January 5, 2016.

Statistics Canada. Table 102-0030 Infant mortality, by sex and birth weight, Canada, provinces and territories (table). CANSIM (database). Last updated September 24, 2013.

Contact information

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Lawson Greenberg (Lawson.Greenberg@canada.ca; 613-799-8690), Health Statistics Division.

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