Lifestyle choices helping to extend life.

New Zealand has retained its rank as one of the world's most developed countries.

In the annual Human Development Index released by the Helen Clark-led United Nations Development Programme, New Zealand is ranked seventh, between Germany and Canada.

The index measures and ranks the average achievement of 187 countries in three basic dimensions of human development - life expectancy, access to education and gross national income per capita.

For New Zealanders, life expectancy at birth is 81.1 years, slightly lower than Australia's (82.5). Australia ranked second on the list.


Professor Tony Blakely of Otago University's department of public health said New Zealand's life expectancy had been creeping up the rankings. Lifestyle choices, including not smoking, contributed to the high life expectancy.

Primary and secondary health care services were "not too bad" and Asian migrants had a mortality rate a third lower than the rest of the country, which offset a higher mortality rate among Maori and Pacific Islanders.

He said though there was a positive correlation between life expectancy, access to education and higher incomes, the three did not necessarily always travel together.

Principals' Federation president Philip Harding said the country's high ranking showed it offered children good access to education.

"The country's challenge is to ensure that all our children use those opportunities to maximise their potential."

Overall, the report showed a slowdown in human development growth worldwide, with levels continuing to rise but at a lesser pace.

The report revealed that nearly 1.5 billion people live in poverty.

Across Asia and the Pacific, more than a billion people live just above the extreme poverty line, on more than $1.46 but less than $2.92 a day.

Helen Clark said though every society was vulnerable to risk, some suffered less harm and recovered more quickly when adversity struck.

There are six countries in the high-human development group from the Asia-Pacific region, including New Zealand and Australia.

In the medium development group, 11 countries from the region ranked, and three were in the low-human development group.

1. Norway
2. Australia
3. Switzerland
4. Netherlands
5. United States
6. Germany
7. New Zealand
8. Canada
9. Singapore
10. Denmark
186. Congo
187. Niger

Source: UN Development Programme
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