Longer, Healthier Lives: New Zealand’s Health 1990–2017

A report on the health loss estimates of the 2017 Global Burden of Disease Study

Published online: 
25 February 2020

This publication provides an overview of the health of New Zealanders and explores how our health has changed over the past quarter of a century using Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) as an integrated measure of poor health and premature death.

Key findings

  • New Zealanders are living longer and spending more years in good health
  • At the same time, life expectancy has increased at a faster pace than healthy life expectancy which means we are also spending more years in poor health
  • Like other high-income countries, New Zealand faces a growing challenge from non-communicable diseases (such as cancers, cardiovascular disease and mental illness)
  • Over a third of the health burden is potentially avoidable by addressing modifiable risks in the population (such as smoking, high BMI and alcohol use) and this presents an important opportunity for prevention.

The report takes a closer look at cancer as the leading condition grouping contributing to DALYs in New Zealand. A number of initiatives, designed to respond to our changing health needs and improve wellbeing, including the National Cancer Action Plan, are highlighted within the publication.


The Global Burden of Disease study (GBD) is led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington. The GBD estimates are informed by a wide range of data, evidence and expertise. The study uses a large and diverse set of up-to-date data sources and robust standardised methods to provide a comprehensive and comparative assessment of health loss. It allows us to understand the ‘big picture’ of New Zealand’s health based on recent evidence. 

Each new cycle of the GBD study takes into account changes in data and evidence since the previous GBD cycle, and builds these changes and new insights into the latest estimates (including modelling these changes back to 1990). This important feature of the study means each GBD cycle is unique and complete in itself and is not directly comparable with any previous cycle. For this reason, the findings from the most recent cycle replace those from all the previous cycles (including findings reported in 'Health Loss in New Zealand 1990-2013' published by the Ministry in 2016).

Publishing information

  • Date of publication:
    25 February 2020
  • ISBN:
    978-1-98-859766-9 (online)
  • HP number:
  • Citation:
    Ministry of Health. 2020. Longer, Healthier Lives: New Zealand’s Health 1990–2017. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
  • Ordering information:
    Only soft copy available to download
  • Copyright status:

    Owned by the Ministry of Health and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence.

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