The Health Status of Australians

BikiCrumbs: The Health Sta… of Australians

From Biki


Current Trends

Life Expectancy

  • for both males and females has increased significantly over the past century
  • most Australians can now expect to live for an average of 80yrs

Major Causes of Sickness and Illness

  • Diseases of the circulatory system (CVD) were the leading cause for men and women in Australia in 1996, accounting for 41.9% of all deaths. Coronary heart disease was the major cardiovascular cause of death, followed by stroke, heart failure and peripheral vascular disease
    • the death rate from coronary heart disease has fallen. This is because of the declines in risk factors e.g. prevalence of smoking and high blood pressure in adults and improvements in medical technology
    • the death rate from stroke has declined steadily, possibly as a result of the declining rates of smoking among adults
  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death, accounting for 29% of male deaths and 25% of female deaths in Australia
    • a large percentage of reported cancer cases are skin cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common for men (30% of all cancers in men), and breast cancer is the most common for women (29.5% of all cancers in women)
    • lung cancer death rates have increased consistently, with rates in 1996 double those of 20yrs ago. This reflects the time period in which lung damage occurs through smoking – that is, lung cancer usually develops a number of years after a person begins smoking
  • Injuries is the main cause of death for children and young adults, and a major cause of hospital admissions and was accounted for 6% of all deaths in Australia in 1996
    • can be divided into motor vehicle deaths, suicides and other
    • child (15yrs or younger) injury deaths between 1990-95 numbered 2797, with 50% of these occurring in children under the age of 5
    • childhood deaths from injury and poisoning declined by 24% in the period 1990-96. This fall can be attributed to reductions in child deaths from motor vehicle accident and drownings
  • Respiratory diseases, including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, pneumonia and influenza, are the third leading cause of death in Australia

Groups Experiencing Health Inequities

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

  • Life expectancy: 16-20 years less than the general population
  • Mortality rates: 5-8 times higher (slowly improving)
  • Infant mortality rates: 2-3 times higher than overall Australian figure
  • Higher prevalence of CVD, cancer, injuries
  • Causes: ½ smoke (compared with ¼ of the overall Australian population), more obesity, high unemployment, low socio-economic status
  • 1989-90 National Health Survey found that:
  • 29% of aboriginal people were overweight and 9% were obese.
  • More likely to suffer diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Socioeconomically disadvantaged people

  • Higher infant mortality
  • Higher mortality rates
  • Poor living conditions
  • Unemployment
  • Low levels of education
  • High substance abuse

Australians born overseas

  • Lower mortality rates
  • Lower morbidity rates (except for mental health)
  • Unemployment
  • Racism
  • Low wages /crime /exploitation
  • Higher level of health: migration criteria, poor people find it difficult to migrate, less lifestyle disease risk factors
  • Problem areas: migrant women, elderly, occupational health and safety, racism and cultural differences

People living in rural and isolated locations

  • Higher mortality rates
  • Lower life expectancy
  • Low wages
  • Poor access to health services
  • Unemployment
  • Major increase in suicide
  • Disadvantages: life expectancy is less, death rates are 69% higher
  • Greater: diabetes, homicide
  • Inequities/causes include: low socio-economic status, access to resources, occupational hazards

People with disabilities

  • Disability: lack of ability to perform everyday functions/ activities
  • 18% of people have one
  • Higher rates in males than females
  • Higher rates in rural areas
  • Handicap: disadvantage resulting from impairment/disability that limits/prevents and everyday role. More severe.
  • Inequities: social stigma and financial constraints


  • 6 years greater life expectancy
  • Gender specific conditions: breast and cervical cancer
  • Lower rates in most diseases than men
  • More vulnerable to domestic violence


  • 25% higher death rate
  • Higher infant mortality rates
  • Gender specific conditions: testicular and prostate cancer
  • Causes: more risk taking behaviour, less use of medical services
  • Youth: more suicide, drug dependency and MVA

Older people

  • We have an aging population
  • Medical problems: arthritis, hypertension
  • Social problems: poor education and socio-economic status
  • Have a greater demand for health services
  • Higher mortality rates
  • Higher morbidity rates

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