Lost productive life years caused by chronic conditions in Australians aged 45–64 years, 2010–2030

Deborah J Schofield, Rupendra N Shrestha, Michelle Cunich, Robert Tanton, Simon Kelly, Megan E Passey and Lennert J Veerman
Med J Aust 2015; 203 (6): 260. || doi: 10.5694/mja15.00132


Objectives: To estimate (1) productive life years (PLYs) lost because of chronic conditions in Australians aged 45–64 years from 2010 to 2030, and (2) the impact of this loss on gross domestic product (GDP) over the same period.

Design, setting and participants: A microsimulation model, Health&WealthMOD2030, was used to project lost PLYs caused by chronic conditions from 2010 to 2030. The base population consisted of respondents aged 45–64 years to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers 2003 and 2009. The national impact of lost PLYs was assessed with Treasury’s GDP equation.

Main outcome measures: Lost PLYs due to chronic disease at 2010, 2015, 2020, 2025 and 2030 (ie, whole life years lost because of chronic disease); the national impact of lost PLYs at the same time points (GDP loss caused by PLYs); the effects of population growth, labour force trends and chronic disease trends on lost PLYs and GDP at each time point.

Results: Using Health&WealthMOD2030, we estimated a loss of 347 000 PLYs in 2010; this was projected to increase to 459 000 in 2030 (32.28% increase over 20 years). The leading chronic conditions associated with premature exits from the labour force were back problems, arthritis and mental and behavioural problems. The percentage increase in the number of PLYs lost by those aged 45–64 years was greater than that of population growth for this age group (32.28% v 27.80%). The strongest driver of the increase in lost PLYs was population growth (accounting for 89.18% of the increase), followed by chronic condition trends (8.28%).

Conclusion: Our study estimates an increase of 112 000 lost PLYs caused by chronic illness in older workers in Australia between 2010 and 2030, with the most rapid growth projected to occur in men aged 55–59 years and in women aged 60–64 years. The national impact of this lost labour force participation on GDP was estimated to be $37.79 billion in 2010, increasing to $63.73 billion in 2030.

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  • Deborah J Schofield1
  • Rupendra N Shrestha1
  • Michelle Cunich1
  • Robert Tanton2
  • Simon Kelly2
  • Megan E Passey3
  • Lennert J Veerman4

  • 1 University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW
  • 2 University of Canberra, Canberra, ACT
  • 3 University of Sydney, Lismore, NSW
  • 4 University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD


The development of the microsimulation model used in this research, Healthboyuan;amp;WealthMOD2030, is funded by the Australian Research Council (under grant LP100100158); Pfizer Australia is a partner to the grant. Megan Passey is supported by fellowships from the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Cancer Institute NSW and the Sydney Medical School Foundation.

Competing interests:

We are financially independent of the funding sources, and the funding sources (including Pfizer Australia) played no part in the research design, the analysis, formulation or interpretation of the results, the decision to publish the research findings, or in any other aspect of the research process.

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access_time 12:10, 30 September 2015
Sharna Goulding

Climate change and diabetes? The killer of lost productive life years

The World Health Organisation stated the direct and indirect effects of climate change will impose on the health status of the globe (1). Lost productive life years caused by chronic conditions in Australia aged 45-64 years, 2010-2030 estimates 112 000 lost productive life years is caused by chronic illnesses in this age bracket (2). However climate changes influence could exacerbate this estimate, costing the Australian government over 63.73 billion in lost labour force. Diabetes is a disease that is growing immensely with it predicted to rise to half a billion by 2030 which will impoverish families, account for a majority of the lost productive years and overwhelm health services (3). People with diabetes are more susceptible to heat and high humidity with studies showing more hospital admissions, illness and higher rates of mortality in extreme weather events (4). In Australia heatwaves have caused more deaths in the past 100 years than any other natural disaster and are becoming more intense, longer and are occurring more frequently. The number of hot days has doubled in the last 50 years as a consequence of climate change, which has caused more mortality and morbidity in people with diabetes (4,5).
Climate change and diabetes share the same pathways of rapid urbanisation, aging population and the global food system (3). Climate change and diabetes are the outcome of resource overconsumption and as one continues to increase so will the other, which will have a great economic burden from the loss of productive life years.

1. Kjellstrom T. Climate change exposures, chronic diseases and mental health in urban populations – a threat to health security, particularly for the poor and disadvantaged. Technical report. Kobe: World Health Organisation Kobe Centre. 2009.

2. Schofield DJ, Shrestha RN, Cunich M, Tanton R, Kelly S, Passey ME, et al. Lost productive life years caused by chronic conditions in Australians aged 45-64 years, 2010-2030. Med J Aust. 2015;203(6):260.

3. Dain K, Hadley L. Diabetes and climate change--two interconnected global challenges. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2012;97(2):337-9

4.Hansen AL, Bi P, Ryan P, Nitschke M, Pisaniello D, Tucker G. The effect of heat waves on hospital admissions for renal disease in a temperate city of Australia. Int J Epidemiol. 2008;37(6):1359-65.

5. Hughes L, Steffen W. Heatwaves: Hotter, Longer, More Often [Internet]. Climate Council of Australia [cited 2015 Sep 17]. Available from:

Competing Interests: No relevant disclosures

Miss Sharna Goulding
Monash University

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