Aussies living longer, healthier lives

Tracey Ferrier
(Australian Associated Press)


Australians are living longer and healthier lives, on average, but some are still giving away years of life and good health to preventable diseases.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has offered a preview of its upcoming report on Australia’s burden of disease.

The report measured the difference between the actual health of the Australian population and “ideal health” – the concept of everyone living as long as possible free from illness or injury.

Researchers, who used data from 2018, found the population’s overall health is continuing to improve but there’s more work to do to tackle preventable conditions.

In fact, the nation’s disease burden could be slashed by a whopping 38 per cent by addressing just five things: smoking, carrying too much weight, having a poor diet, blood pressure issues and alcohol consumption.

The scourge that is cancer made the highest contribution to the disease burden at 18 per cent.

Next there was a three-way tie with cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis, and mental and substance use disorders each contributing 13 per cent each.

The fifth greatest contributor was injuries generally, accounting for 8.4 per cent.

The average proportion of life spent in full health has remained largely unchanged between the first study in 2003 and the most recent one, at 89 per cent for males, and 87 per cent for females.

While those two figures are pretty close, others are not.

The report showed the gap between Australia’s haves and have-nots extends well beyond material possessions to the length and quality of people’s lives.

“People living in the highest socio economic areas lived more years in full health, without disease or injury, compared to those in the lowest socio economic areas,” Richard Juckes, from the AIHW, said.

“Additionally, those living in remote and very remote areas experience 40 per cent higher burden compared to those in major cities.”

More detailed findings from the Australian Burden of Disease Study, and a report on the burden of disease experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, will be released later this year.


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