The unlucky country – life expectancy and health in regional and remote Australia. Part 1: NSW

The unlucky country – life expectancy and health in regional and remote Australia. Part 1: NSW Report

  • Author(s): McBride, K
  • Published: 2023
  • Publisher: The Australia Institute

Abstract: Australia has the world’s third highest life expectancy at 84.3 years. However, this national average masks the fact that the ‘lucky country’ has some rather less lucky residents. In every state and territory, those in regional and remote areas have life expectancies several years lower than in the city. New South Wales (NSW) is a stark example of this divide. Life expectancy in Far West NSW is 79.1 years compared to 84.5 years in Sydney. This more than five-year gap has grown from relative parity at the turn of the millennium to the current gap. Today, a person in far west NSW is more than twice as likely to die prematurely (under 75) than someone in Sydney. While there are many possible reasons for this discrepancy, overall, people die of the same causes in urban and remote parts of NSW; a comparison of the top causes of death in each area reveals that the top 10 are almost identical. However, regional and remote people are dying younger and from preventable causes at much higher rates than those in Sydney. Deaths considered ‘potentially avoidable’ are more than two and a half times as common in the far west than in the state’s capital. It has been known for years that there is a suicide issue in regional Australia. Suicide rates in far west NSW—already more than twice as high than those in Sydney—are continuing to rise, while those in urban areas remain steady. But while suicide is a significant problem, it is only the tenth leading cause of death in the region. Suicide tends to take people at a younger age than other causes and as a result can disproportionally skew life expectancy, having said this there are other factors likely at play. In 2022, a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into health outcomes and access to services in rural, regional, and remote NSW found that people outside urban areas had significantly poorer health outcomes, inferior access to health services, and faced substantial financial challenges to access services. This divide between life expectancy in the cities and in the country is a problem that extends beyond far western NSW. The city/country divide exists across Australia, and it is growing. Inequity between Australians living in capitals and remote areas is a significant problem that demands government intervention, particularly concerning overwhelmed and under resourced health systems.

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Suggested Citation
McBride, K, 2023, The unlucky country – life expectancy and health in regional and remote Australia. Part 1: NSW, Report, viewed 21 February 2024,

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