Cancer, heart disease in years of life lost

years of life lost burden: interior of heart

Cancer and heart disease were responsible for 58% of the total years of life lost in 2010, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, which looks at years of life lost due to premature death and the leading causes of these deaths.

The report, Australian Burden of Disease Study: Fatal burden of disease 2010, shows that there were around 143,500 deaths in Australia in 2010, resulting in 2.25 million years of life lost.

“The term ‘fatal burden’ refers to years of life lost, using the measure YLL (years of life lost). One YLL represents one year of healthy life lost due to premature death,” says AIHW spokesperson Dr Lynelle Moon.

Five disease groups accounted for 81% of fatal burden in 2010, with two groups accounting for more than half (58%) of the total fatal burden.

“Cancers were the largest contributor of fatal burden in 2010, accounting for 35% of the total, while cardiovascular diseases accounted for a further 23%,” Dr Moon says.

These were followed by injuries (13%), neurological conditions (6%) and respiratory diseases (5%).

Males accounted for more (59%) of the total fatal burden than females. This was largely due to the high number of YLL in males due to injuries.

“Our report also shows that fatal burden—and its causes—varied among age groups,” Dr Moon says.

Deaths in infants (aged under one year) contributed 5% of total YLL, but they made up only 1% of all deaths.

“This larger contribution to total YLL reflects the way fatal burden is calculated, taking into account the potential length of life of an infant, as opposed to, for example, an older person.”

The fatal burden in infants was largely due to infant and congenital conditions.

Injuries were the leading cause of fatal burden in those aged under 45, after which cancers and cardiovascular diseases were most prominent.

“The contribution from cancer peaked around age 55–64 then declined, while cardiovascular disease was the major cause of fatal burden among people aged 85 and over,” Dr Moon says.

This report is the first in a series of publications from the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2011. The full report of this study will update and extend this report with estimates of fatal and non-fatal burden.

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