Department of the Environment

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Publications archive - Ecologically Sustainable Development


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Are We Sustaining Australia? Report Against Headline Sustainabilty Indicators

Environment Australia, 2002
ISBN 0 642 54771 8

Value 3: Healthy Living

Rationale for inclusion of issue

Good health is essential to individual well-being. A healthy population also enhances the well-being of a community by enhancing its productivity.

Indicator 4

Disability adjusted years life expectancy (DALE) at 1996

71.16 years

Source: Adapted from AIHW Cat No. PHE 17, Colin Mathers, Theo Vos and Chris Stevenson, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, The Burden of Disease and Injury in Australia, 1999.

Rationale for selection of indicator

Disability adjusted life years gives a snapshot of how long individuals can expect to have good health and shows changes in overall well-being which may not be severe enough to translate into reduced life expectancy. It is therefore more sensitive than life expectancy and infant mortality indicators.

The Disability Adjusted Life Year or DALY was developed by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organisation. The measure includes equivalent years of 'healthy' life lost by virtue of being in states of poor health or disability, in order to include the impact of premature death and health problems among those who are alive.

Explanatory and elaborative information

While DALE data are expected to be available from future Australian Institute of Health studies, there are currently no time series data for this indicator, so that it is not yet possible to determine from this indicator whether the overall health of individual members of the Australian community is being sustained or enhanced. However, except for a slight fall for both males and females in 1965-72, actual life expectancy has been slowly increasing from 66.07 and 70.83 years for males and females respectively in 1946-48 to 76.22 and 81.77 years respectively in 1997-99. Trends in disability adjusted life expectancy need to be read together with trends in actual life expectancy to be most informative.

Disability-adjusted life expectancy by sex and age, 1996


Males DALE (years)

Females DALE (years)













Disability-adjusted life expectancy by sex and age, 1999

Disability-adjusted life expectancy by sex and age, 1999

Source: Adapted from AIHW Cat No. PHE 17, The Burden of Disease and Injury in Australia

Supplementary indicators