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Australia’s Health 2020

The Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (AIHW) has released their biennial report on the health of the nation.

Life expectancy

The good news is Australians are living longer, and more of those years are lived in good health. Life expectancy for those born in 2016-2018 is 80.7 years for males and 84.9 years for females. Fifty six percent of people over 15 years rated their own health as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’. People who are socioeconomically disadvantaged can expect to live 6 years less (men) and 4 years less (women).

How Australia compares

Australia ranks well compared to other countries on measures of health such as daily smoking and life expectancy, but not so well on others. Of 23 OECD countries with comparable statistics, Australia has the 5th highest obesity rate for people aged over 15.

Burden of disease

The diseases causing the most burden in 2015 were cancer (18% total), cardiovascular disease (14%), musculoskeletal conditions (13%), mental and substance use disorders (12%) and injuries (8.5%). Together these accounted to two thirds of the total burden. The burden of disease is 1.4 times higher in remote areas compared to major cities.

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is still the leading single cause of death, although the death rate from CHD continues to fall, having declined 82% since 1980. Cancer survival is on the increase due to improvements in treatment and care, and avoidance of risk factors. One in 20 people had diabetes in 2017-18 and the prevalence increases with age; 1 in 5 people aged over 75 have it. One in five Australians report having a mental health condition.

Most disease burden for Indigenous Australians is from chronic diseases and injuries; the leading cause is mental and substance use disorders.

Lifestyle risk factors

The five risk factors that caused the most disease burden in 2015 were:

  • Tobacco use (9.3%)
  • Overweight and obesity (8.4%)
  • Dietary risks (7.3%)
  • High blood pressure (5.8%)
  • High blood glucose (including diabetes) (4.7%)

People living in regional and remote areas were more likely to engage in risky behaviours such as smoking and drinking alcohol at risky levels. People who are socioeconomically disadvantaged were 3.3 times as likely to smoke daily.



In 2017-18:

  • One in four children and adolescents were overweight or obese: 17% were overweight; 8.2% were obese
  • Two in three adults were overweight or obese: 36% were overweight; 31 were obese (obesity is more common in older age groups)

People in regional areas are more likely to be overweight or obese. People who are more socioeconomically disadvantaged were 1.6 times more likely to be obese.

Dietary risks

In 2017-18:

  • Ninety six percent of men and 89% of women don’t eat enough vegetables each day, and similarly 95% of boys and 93% of girls don’t eat enough vegetables.
  • One in 14 (7.1%) children and adolescents aged 2-17 and 9.1% adults aged over 18 consumed sugar-sweetened beverages every day.

You can read the full report here.


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