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Australians are living longer, but chronic diseases are taking a toll

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Med J Aust 2014; 201 (5): 250. || doi: 10.5694/mja14.00969
Published online: 1 September 2014

Australia's health 2014, the 14th biennial health report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, shows Australia has much to be proud of in many areas of health, but lifestyle-related chronic diseases are taking an increasing toll.

On the positive side, the report shows that Australians have increasingly longer life expectancy, lower death rates for cancer and many other diseases, and a health system that people say they are mostly happy with.

Life expectancy, the “universal health indicator”, places Australia among the top nations in the world — sixth for men and seventh for women — but very close to the first-placed nations in 2011 (Iceland for men, Japan for women).

Australians are living 25 years longer on average than a century ago, so that a boy born today can expect to live to 79.9 years, and a girl to 84.3 years.

On the “room for improvement” side, the report shows that Australians are increasingly living with chronic diseases and their risk factors, which are related to our ageing population as well as to lifestyles and health habits.

Chronic diseases are the leading cause of illness, disability and death in Australia, accounting for 90% of all deaths in 2011.

The report also highlights health issues at various life stages, with findings such as:

  • cancer survival 5 years after diagnosis for 0–14-year-olds improved from 68% to 81% between 1983–1989 and 2004–2010;
  • mental health disorders affect an estimated 26% of young people aged 16–24 years. Around one-third of people in this age group are overweight or obese;
  • among 25–44-year-olds, the top two causes of death for men in 2011 were suicide and accidental poisoning, and for women, suicide and breast cancer. Among 45–64-year-olds, the top two causes of death for men were coronary heart disease and lung cancer, and for women, breast cancer and lung cancer; and
  • the most common long-term health conditions afflicting older Australians (65 years and over) are arthritis, high blood pressure and hearing loss.

The full report is available at: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=60129547205.

  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare


Correspondence: jess.cumming@aihw.gov.au

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