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Burden of disease is a modelling technique that combines multiple data sources to count and compare the total fatal and non‑fatal health loss from diseases and injuries in a population, and its attribution to specific risk factors.

One measure of burden of disease is disability-adjusted life years (DALY), which combines estimates of years of life lost due to premature death (YLL) and years lived with disability (YLD) to count the total years of healthy life lost from disease and injury.

The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2011

The AIHW is undertaking the third Australian Burden of Disease Study (ABDS). It will provide updated estimates for over 200 diseases and injuries in Australia and for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population for the reference year 2011. The previous Australian and Indigenous studies were for the 2003 reference year.

The results from ABDS 2011 will provide an important resource for health policy formulation, service planning and to monitor population health, including the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. They will provide a foundation for further assessments, such as in relation to health interventions aiming to prevent or treat the condition, and disease expenditure.

The study is building on methodological developments in recent global (Global Burden of Disease Study and Global Health Estimates) and country burden of disease studies, tailored to the Australian context.

To provide transparency of methods and decision-making processes, the AIHW is releasing a series of working papers over the course of the study.

The Australian Government Department of Health and the (former) Australian National Preventive Health Agency provided funding for the Study.

Expected release of 2011 results

Estimates of fatal and non-fatal burden of disease and risk factors for 2011 are underway, with results expected to be published in the first half of 2016. Estimates for 2003 will also be revised using the updated methodology from the current study.

The study is also building significant infrastructure that will enable efficient updates, as well as more detailed analysis and modelling for particular diseases, risk factors or other extensions of the study.

Key findings from the Fatal burden of disease 2010 reports

Initial reports on the fatal burden of disease (YLL) for the 2010 reference year were published in early 2015. The three leading disease groups for the Australian population were Cancer (35%), Cardiovascular diseases (23%) and Injuries (13%), and these contributed more than 70% of total fatal burden.

Figure 1. Leading causes of fatal burden in 2010  

Five leading disease groups make up 81% of all fatal burden in Australia

Source: Australian Burden of Disease Study: fatal burden of disease 2010

The leading causes of fatal burden (by major disease group) in 2010 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were Injuries and Cardiovascular diseases (22% and 21% respectively), followed by cancer (17%).

Figure 2. Leading causes of fatal burden in 2010, Indigenous Australians

Six leading disease groups make up 82% of all Indigenous fatal burden.

Source: Australian Burden of Disease Study: Fatal burden of disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2010.

For more information

Contact the Australian Burden of Disease Unit

Email: .