Aussie health let down by lifestyle habits

Most Australians consider themselves to be in good health, according to the latest two-yearly report card from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare… despite our not-so-healthy habits

And these habits aren’t evenly spread across socioeconomic demographics, the report finds.

The report, Australia’s health 2016 is a key information resource, was launched today by federal Health Minister Sussan Ley.

AIHW Director and CEO Barry Sandison says the report provides new insights and new ways of understanding the health of Australians.

“The report shows that Australia has much to be proud of in terms of health,” he says.

“We are living longer than ever before, death rates continue to fall, and most of us consider ourselves to be in good health.”

56% of Australians rate their health as ‘excellent’, or ‘very good’ and 29% as ‘good’.

“However, 19 of us would have a disability, 20 a mental health disorder in the last 12 months, and 50 at least one chronic disease.”

Sandison says the influence of lifestyle factors on a person’s health was a recurring theme of the report.

“13 out of 100 of us smoke daily, 18 drink alcohol at risky levels, and 95 do not eat the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables,” he says.

“And while 55 do enough physical activity, 63 of us are overweight or obese.”

Sandison says that while lifestyle choices are a major contributor to the development of many chronic diseases, other factors such as our income, education and whether we have a job all affect our health, for better or worse.

“As a general rule, every step up the socioeconomic ladder is accompanied by an increase in health,” he says.

“Compared with people living in the highest socioeconomic areas, people living in the lowest socioeconomic areas generally live about three years less, are 1.6 times as likely to have more than one chronic health condition, and are three times as likely to smoke daily.”

As well as looking at factors influencing individuals’ health, today’s report also examines the health of particular population groups, and shows considerable disparities.

“For example, while there have been some improvements overall in the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians—including falls in smoking rates and infant mortality—Indigenous Australians continue to have a lower life expectancy than non-Indigenous Australians, at 69.1 years for males and 73.7 for females, more than 10 years shorter than for non-Indigenous Australians,” Sandison says.

Indigenous Australians also continue to have higher rates of many diseases, such as diabetes, end-stage kidney disease and coronary heart disease.

For people living in rural and remote areas, where accessing services can be more difficult, lower life expectancy and higher rates of disease and injury—particularly road accidents—are of concern.

In Australia, health services are delivered by a mix of public and private providers that includes more than 1,300 hospitals and about 385,000 nurses, midwives and medical practitioners.

Of the $155 billion spent on health in 2013–14, $145 billion was recurrent expenditure. Hospitals accounted for 40% of recurrent expenditure ($59 billion), primary health care 38% ($55 billion), with the remaining 22% spent on other health goods and services. For the first time, the report examines how spending by age for people admitted to hospital has changed over time.

Sandison says the analysis shows that the largest increase in spending between 2004–05 and 2012–13 was for Australians aged 50 and over.

“This was due to more being spent per person in the population as well as the increased number of people in these age groups.”

He also says that while Australia’s health 2016 provides an excellent overview of Australia’s health at a point in time, there is still scope to expand on the analysis.


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