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28 Jun 2019

Many of the key drivers of health and welfare are in our everyday living and working conditions, according the latest Government findings.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data shows that a person’s health is influenced by health behaviours that are part of their individual lifestyle.

“Behavioural risk factors such as poor eating patterns can have a detrimental effect on health —many health problems experienced by the Australian population could be prevented by reducing the exposure to modifiable risk factors such as tobacco smoking, being overweight or obese, high alcohol use, physical inactivity and high blood pressure — the circumstances in which we grow, live, work and age,” the AIHW states.

“These social determinants include factors such as income, education and employment, and can strengthen or undermine the health and welfare of individuals and communities.”

The overall health of the Australian population, however, improved substantially between 2003 and 2015 and further gains could be achieved by reducing lifestyle-related risk factors, according to a new report by the AIHW.

The Australian Burden of Disease Study: Impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2015, measures the number of years living with an illness or injury (the non-fatal burden) or lost through dying prematurely (the fatal burden).

In 2015, Australians collectively lost 4.8 million years of healthy life due to living with or dying prematurely from disease and injury,” said AIHW spokesperson Richard Juckes.

The disease groups causing the most burden in 2015 were cancer, cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal conditions, mental and substance use disorders and injuries.

After accounting for the increase in size and ageing of the population, there was an 11 per cent decrease in the rate of burden between 2003 and 2015.”

Most of the improvement in the total burden resulted from reductions in premature deaths from illnesses and injuries such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and infant and congenital conditions.

“Thirty eight per cent of the total burden of disease experienced by Australians in 2015 could have been prevented by reducing exposure to the risk factors included in this study,” Mr Juckes said.

“The five risk factors that caused the most total burden in 2015 were tobacco use (9.3 per cent), overweight and obesity (8.4 per cent), dietary risks (7.3 per cent), high blood pressure (5.8 per cent) and high blood plasma glucose—including diabetes (4.7 per cent).”

For the first time, living with illness or injury caused more total disease burden than premature death. In 2015, the non-fatal share was 50.4 per cent and the fatal share was 49.6 per cent of the burden of disease.

Also released recently, is an overview of health spending that provides an understanding of the impact of diseases in terms of spending through the health system. The data in Disease expenditure in Australia relates to the 2015–16 financial year only and suggests the highest expenditure groups were musculoskeletal conditions (10.7 per cent), cardiovascular diseases (8.9 per cent) injuries (7.6 per cent) and mental and substance use disorders (7.6 per cent).

“Together the burden of disease and spending estimates can be used to understand the impact of diseases on the Australian community. However, they can’t necessarily be compared with each other, as there are many reasons why they wouldn’t be expected to align,” Mr Juckes said.

 “For example, spending on reproductive and maternal health is relatively high but it is not associated with substantial disease burden because the result is healthy mothers and babies more often than not.

“Similarly, vaccine-preventable diseases cause very little burden in Australia due to national investment in immunisation programs.”

The full reports can be found at:



Published: 28 Jun 2019