COVID-19 presented a clear threat to New Zealanders' lives and wellbeing. The Government's elimination strategy effectively mitigated this threat, but COVID-19 still poses a risk to the physical wellbeing of New Zealanders.
New Zealanders' life expectancies are above the OECD median and have continued to increase. The gap between Māori and non-Māori life expectancy was 7.3 years for females and 7.5 years for males in 2017-2019. This has decreased from 7.9 years for females and 8.6 years for males in 2005-2007 and from 9.3 years for females and 8.8 years for males in 1995-1997.
The HLFS wellbeing supplements show self-reported general health status was relatively steady over the December 2020 and March 2021 quarters. 56.5 percent of New Zealanders reported ‘very good' or ‘excellent' health in the March 2021 quarter. In comparison, 14.4 percent of New Zealanders reported ‘fair/poor' health in the March 2021 quarter, increasing from 13.0 percent in the December 2020 quarter.
However, different groups of the population reported divergent health outcomes. Māori and Pacific people, sole parents, and unemployed people were among other groups with higher rates of ‘fair/poor' health. As part of the Government's health reforms, we are establishing a Māori Health Authority to address this disparity and drive hauora Māori.
Mental health continues to be a strong area of focus for this Government, as reflected in our Wellbeing Objectives. While New Zealanders generally reported high levels of happiness and low levels of anxiety in the March 2021 quarter, mental wellbeing measures also differed across population groups. New Zealanders rated their happiness at an average of 8.0 out of 10 (where 0 is not happy at all and 10 is completely happy).
Sole parents were twice as likely to report feeling lonely most or all of the time in the past four weeks compared to the general population, while people not in the labour force for health reasons were more than three times as likely. The wellbeing data showed 61 percent of recent migrants reported experiencing loneliness at least a little of the time, compared to 43 percent of long-term migrants, and 40 percent of people born in New Zealand. The 2019/20 New Zealand Health Survey found that 7.4 percent of adults had experienced psychological distress in the past four weeks. This figure was much higher for Māori adults, at 13.6 percent.