​The population on Sydney’s north shore and northern suburbs is leading the way in life expectancy Australia-wide. Royal North Shore Hospital staff specialist geriatrician Dr James Hardy recently spoke to North Shore Living about why he thinks our patients are living longer and stronger.


​The average life expectancy on Sydney’s north shore is 85. Does this figure surprise you?

No, the average life expectancy across Australia has been increasing for some time. Very often we see people in our service who are much older and may be relatively healthy at that age. We have known for some time that the lower north shore has some of the oldest residents in the country.

What do you attribute this longevity of north shore inhabitants to?

A lot of the likely reasons would be linked to higher socioeconomic status, with the attendant improved health status that brings, along with lower smoking rates and possibly better nutrition and higher rates of exercise. All of these things are known factors in successful ageing.

What makes us different to rest of Sydney?

It is a more affluent, highly educated population with access to good healthcare services.

What percentage of this is amazing longevity is genes, what percentage good management and what percentage luck?

Some studies in twins suggest it may be around 30 per cent genetics and 70 per cent contribution of the environment to the chance of reaching an age of mid to late 80s. Some of that 70 per cent would be modifiable by the individual, but some would be luck or due to general changes in society over time, such as improved sanitation and water supply or the decline of certain infectious diseases.

Do we have any specific health problems on the north shore you don’t see elsewhere?

No, but given we have an older population, we see a lot of people with conditions that are more common with ageing, such as falls, osteoporosis and cognitive impairment.

Does this longevity mean we cost Medicare less as we don’t have as many health issues - or more as we last longer?

It is likely that a larger amount of healthcare costs in a person’s life occur in the last few years of their lives. However, the ideal is rather than living for a long time with disability, impairments only occur right at the end of life.