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The term chronic disease applies to a group of diseases that tend to be long lasting and have persistent effects.

Chronic diseases have a range of potential impacts on a person's individual circumstances, including quality of life and broader social and economic effects. Chronic diseases are the leading causes of fatal burden of disease (the amount of life lost due to people dying early) in most age and sex groups [1] and are the leading cause of illness, disability and death in Australia, accounting for 90% of all deaths in 2011 [2].

Information presented below on the prevalence of selected chronic diseases comes from different data sources. This means there may be some differences in the time periods of reporting and methods of measurement used in relation to specific chronic diseases.

Media release: 1 in 5 Australians affected by multiple chronic diseases

Information in this section was last updated in August 2015.

Chronic disease dash 1in5 people have CVD PNG

Cardiovascular disease (CVD)

CVD is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in Australia.

Over 1 in 5 Australians aged 18+ (22%) reported having CVD in 2011–12 [3].


Over the past 3 decades, survival rates for cancer have gradually increased [2]. 861,057 Australians were alive in 2009 who had been diagnosed with cancer in the previous 28 years [4].

In 2009, the risk of being diagnosed with cancer before their 85th birthday was 1 in 2 for males and 1 in 3 for females.

Chronic disease dash 1in10 people have CKD PNG

Chronic kidney disease (CKD)

1 in 10 Australians aged 18+ (10%) had biomedical signs of CKD in 2011–12, with the majority of these showing early signs of the disease [3].

Chronic disease dash 1in19 people have diabetes PNG


1 in 19 Australians (5.4%) had diabetes in 2011–12 (self–reported and measured data). This is includes approximately 1% of the population who did not self-report they had diabetes, which may indicate they were unaware they had the condition [3].

Chronic disease dash 1in5 people have mental health disorders PNG

Mental health

The most recent data shows that mental health conditions are highly prevalent in the population.

In 2007, 1 in 5 Australians aged 16–85 (20%) experienced a mental disorder in the previous 12 months [6].

In 2013–14, 1 in 7 children aged 4–17 (14%) were assessed as having mental health disorders in the previous 12 months [7].

Chronic disease dash 1in4 people have musculoskeletal conditions PNG

Musculoskeletal conditions

Over 1 in 4 Australians (28%) reported having arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions in 2011–12. The most prevalent conditions were back problems, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis [8].

Chronic disease dash 3in10 adults 1in2 children have tooth decay PNG

Oral health

3 in 10 Australians aged 25–44 had untreated tooth decay in 2004–06.

1 in 2 12 year–olds had tooth decay in their permanent teeth in 2010. From 1977–2010 there has been an overall decrease in the average number of permanent teeth affected; however there has been a gradual increase from the late 1990s [9].

Chronic disease dash 1in10 people have asthma 1in42 have COPD PNG

Respiratory diseases (including asthma & COPD)

1 in 10 Australians (10%) reported having asthma in 2011–12. This rate is significantly lower than the rate of 11.6% in 2001.

1 in 42 Australians (2.4%) reported having COPD in 2011–12. The development of COPD occurs over many years and mainly affects middle aged and older people [8].


  1. AIHW 2015. Australian Burden of Disease Study: fatal burden of disease 2010. Cat. no. BOD 1. Canberra: AIHW.
  2. AIHW 2014. Australia's health 2014. Cat. no. AUS 178. Canberra: AIHW.
  3. ABS Microdata: Australian Health Survey: Core Content—Risk Factors and Selected Health Conditions, 2011–12.
  4. AIHW Australian Cancer Database 2011.
  5. AIHW 2014. Cancer in Australia: an overview 2014. Cancer series No 90. Cat. no. CAN 88. Canberra: AIHW.
  6. ABS 2008. National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: summary of results, 2007. ABS cat. no. 4326.0. Canberra: ABS.
  7. Lawrence D, Johnson S, Hafekost J, Boterhoven De Haan K, Sawyer M, Ainley J, Zubrick SR 2015. The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents. Report on the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Canberra: Department of Health.
  8. ABS 2012. Australian Health Survey: First Results, 2011–12. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.
  9. AIHW 2014. Oral health and dental care in Australia: key facts and figures trends 2014. Cat. no. DEN 228. Canberra: AIHW.