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Life expectancy has increased… so has the disability rates!

According to a new study, Australians live longer but with more disabilities among the aged. While Australians are living up to 2 years longer// than they were in 1988, more people are suffering disabilities later in life, according to the research published by the Institute of Health and Welfare.

Life expectancy for non-Indigenous Australian men has increased by two years and by one year for women. Men born in 2003 can expect to live up to 77 and women up to 82 years.

"As people are living longer, they are living a greater part of their life with a disability,'' author Dr Xingyan Wen said. "The ageing of the Australian population and the greater longevity of individuals are leading to more people, especially those at older ages, with a disability.''

Australia's peak doctors group yesterday said if the "serious under funding'' of services for people with disabilities was not improved, it could derail the whole health system.

"This is a significant iceberg waiting for us to hit,'' Australian Medical Association president Dr Mukesh Haikerwal said. "We know there is a problem around looking after people with disabilities. "The social support they are going to require will be quite significant.''

Dr Haikerwal said it was preferable for Australians with disabilities to be cared for in their homes and remain part of their social support network. "Community care services are notoriously under funded by the state and federal governments,'' he said. "I think that's a real hole.'' Labor called for major reforms to the health system to make it ready for the challenges of providing health care to an ageing population.

Accoding to the institute, the extra years of life may post a challenge to health authorities as more people get disabilities later in life. Women may live with disabilities for up to 20 years as a result of the longer life.

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