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Australians lose millions of years of healthy life due to disease burden

Australians have lost millions of years of healthy life to injuries and diseases but a fair chunk of it could have been avoided.

Australians lost five million years of healthy life due to disease and injury in 2018, with coronary heart disease still the highest disease burden.

The burden of disease, which measures the impact of living with illness and injury and dying prematurely, has been tracked by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The conditions causing the most burden in 2018 were coronary heart disease, back pain, dementia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.

While Australians lost fewer years of healthy life to coronary heart disease, it remained the leading contributor to the nation’s disease burden.

The study also revealed a stark contrast between cities and rural areas, with remote and very remote areas experiencing a total burden 1.4 times higher than major cities in 2018.

The study measured the years of healthy life Australians lost due to 219 diseases and 40 risk factors.

Chronic disease such as cancer, musculoskeletal conditions, cardiovascular diseases, and mental and substance use disorders contributed the most burden in Australia in 2018.

However, the authors said more than one-third of the disease burden was preventable.

Thirty-eight per cent of the burden could have been avoided or reduced due to modifiable risk factors such as tobacco use and being overweight, including obesity, the study found.

Other risk factors contributing the most burden were diet-related, high blood pressure and alcohol use.

The difference in the disease burden across states and territories was most pronounced in the Northern Territory, which had higher burden rates than other jurisdictions.

Large inequalities were also found across socio-economic groups and remote areas.

Overall, the health of the Australian population improved over the 15-year period from 2003 to 2018.

However, in 2018, males experienced more burden, losing a total of around 267,000 more years of healthy life than females.

Dying from disease and injury accounted for more burden in males, while living with illness accounted for more burden in females.

The rate of burden increased with age, with older Australians experiencing a substantial proportion of the total burden despite having a smaller population.


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