AIHW Board AIHW senior staff Annual report Capability statement Collaboration AIHW corporate plan 2016–17 to 2019–20 Customer care charter FOI - freedom of information Indexed list of files Organisation chart Presentations Privacy of data Public consultation Public Interest Disclosure Strategic Directions 2011-2014 Tenders
By category Ageing, disability & carers Families & children Hospitals Housing & homelessness Indigenous Australians Population groups Risk factors, diseases & death Services, workforce & spending
By subject Adoptions Aged care Ageing Alcohol & other drugs Arthritis & musculoskeletal conditions Asthma Australia's health Australia's welfare Burden of disease Cancer Cardiovascular disease Child health, development & wellbeing Child protection Children's services Chronic diseases
Chronic kidney disease Chronic respiratory conditions COPD Deaths Dementia Dental & oral health Diabetes Disability Expenditure Eye health Food & nutrition Health indicators Health performance Homelessness Hospitals Housing assistance Indigenous Australians Injury Life expectancy
Male health Mental health Mothers & babies National health priority areas Overweight & obesity Palliative care Population health Primary health care Prisoner health Risk factors Rural health Safety & quality of health care Veterans' health Workforce Youth health & wellbeing Youth justice
In other sections Data Publications Contact AIHW
Publications CatalogueOrdering publicationsForthcoming publications Online reports Rate our publication effectivenessSubscribe to release notices
By subject Adoptions Aged care Ageing Alcohol & other drugs AIHW annual reports Arthritis & musculoskeletal conditions Asthma Australia's health Australia's welfare Burden of disease Cancer Cardiovascular disease Child health, development & wellbeing Child protection Children's services Chronic diseases Chronic kidney disease
Chronic respiratory conditions Corporate publications Data linkage Data standards Deaths Dental & oral health Diabetes Disability Expenditure Eye health Food & nutrition General practice Health indicators Homelessness Hospitals Housing assistance Indigenous Australians Indigenous housing
Injury Life expectancy Male health Mental health services Mothers & babies National health priority areas Overweight & obesity Palliative care Population health Primary health carePrisoner health Risk factors Rural health Safety & quality of health care Veterans' health Workforce Youth health & wellbeing Youth justice
In other sections Subjects Data Contact AIHW
About AIHW data METeOR—metadata online registry Data by subject Catalogue of holdings of AIHW data Customised data analysis request Data governance framework Data linking Data standards GovHack Privacy of data Accessing Australian Government health and welfare data
By subjectAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework Adoptions Aged care Alcohol and other drugs Alcohol data sources Body weight data sources Cancer Children's headline indicators (CHI) Child protection Chronic disease indicators Data sources for monitoring health conditionsDeaths Disability
Expenditure FHBH - Fixing houses for better health General Record of Incidence of Mortality (GRIM) books Height and weight data sources Hospitals Indigenous Australians International collaboration Maternity Information Matrix (MIM) Medical indemnity Mental health Mortality Over Regions and Time (MORT) books National Aged Care Data Clearinghouse
National core maternity indicators (NCMI) National framework for protecting Australia’s children (NFPAC) National indicator catalogue National Youth Information Framework (NYIF) Perinatal data Primary Health Network (PHN) Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) Tobacco data sources Workforce
In other sections Subjects Publications Contact AIHW
AACR ACFADD AHSAC AIHW Board AIHW Ethics Committee AODTS NMDS WG CKDMAC CMAG CSDWG CVDMAC HEAC
IGIHM JJ RIG MHISSC NAGATSIHID NCIAG NCSIMG NDDWG NDIMG NHISSC NIAG NIRAPIMG NMDD
NMDS NMHPSC NOPSAD NPDDC NPHEP NPHIC PCDWG PDWG PHIDG PHIG REDWG Workforce committees YIAG
Education worksheets Infographics What's in the pipeline Subscribe to education notices Other educational links
Resources by subject All Latest Ageing Australia's health Australia's welfare Carers
Children & youth Disability Disease Drugs
Health Health prevention Indigenous Australians Injury
In other sections Subjects Data Publications Contact AIHW
Job vacancies How to apply for a position at the AIHW Conditions of employment Benefits of working for the AIHW Temporary employment register Occupational Training Program Contact the People Unit Graduates
AIHW Access magazine Media releases Subscribe to release notices Embargoed access to AIHW material Media contacts
You are here:
On this page
Self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2011–12 Australian Health Survey (AHS) (National Health Survey component) provides the opportunity to look at the prevalence of chronic disease comorbidity among the Australian population. Comorbidity data are presented for the following 8 chronic diseases:
These chronic diseases were selected for reporting because they are common, pose significant health problems, have been the focus of recent AIHW surveillance efforts, and action can be taken to prevent their occurrence. Chronic kidney disease is not included because of the identified low numbers using self-reported data. See data limitations below.
Nearly 5 in 10 Australians (46%) have at least 1 of the 8 selected chronic diseases.
Two in 10 Australians (20%) have 2 or more of the 8 selected chronic diseases.
Comorbidity becomes more common as people get older. Nearly 4 in 10 Australians (39%) aged 45 and over have at least 2 of the 8 selected chronic diseases.
Comorbidity refers to any two or more diseases that occur in one person at the same time. This may occur simply by chance; however, more often than not, diseases occur together because there are some associations between them. Diseases may share risk factors (for example smoking is a risk factor for many diseases), or one disease may be a risk factor in itself for another. For example, diabetes is a well-known risk factor for CVD, possibly due to diabetes increasing atherosclerosis (thickening of blood vessel walls with plaque deposits), which is the underlying cause of most CVD in Australia .
Ageing is a factor that has a particularly strong association with comorbidity. This is because older people are more vulnerable to the onset of many diseases, and with an increased life expectancy in Australia, comes a greater opportunity for multiple conditions to arise .
Reporting on comorbidity is important to inform the planning for preventive, management and treatment services, and in the allocation of health care funding.
Comorbidities often indicate the presence of more severe disease. Therefore, comorbidity is associated with poorer prognosis, a greater frequency of visits to GPs and specialists, more hospital admissions and longer stays in hospital. Together these result in higher health care costs .
In addition, clinical treatment for people with comorbidities is more complex and time consuming than for people with a single condition. Multiple medications and therapies are often needed, which requires extra attention from clinicians to reduce the risk of treatment conflicts such as dangerous drug interactions .
Some combinations of comorbidity have particularly high impacts on the complexity of clinical management and health service use. For example:
Most individuals aged 0–44 with any of the 8 listed chronic diseases do not experience comorbidity (Figure 1). The exceptions are arthritis, cancer and COPD where additional diseases are common.
Source: ABS Australian Health Survey 2011–12 (National Health Survey component) (see source data).
People aged 45 and over are more likely than those aged 0–44 to have comorbidities across all 8 chronic diseases. For people with asthma, COPD, diabetes and cancer, the majority have 2 or more additional diseases.
When interpreting self-reported data, it is important to recognise that because we rely on respondents providing accurate information, the outputs may not be a true reflection of the situation. For example, self-reported data for chronic kidney disease substantially underestimate the prevalence when compared to biomedical testing: 1% according to self-reported data versus 10% according to measured results . People also underestimate their weight yet overestimate their height, which are used to calculate body mass index for the assessment of overweight and obesity . Measured data are, therefore, more reliable in such instances.
While the individual prevalence estimates for each disease are from the best available data sources, using the self-reported data from the 2011–12 AHS enables us to look at the association between chronic diseases across the Australian population, which is not possible using separate data sources. The limitations with the data, however, must be recognised.
It is also important to note that information on comorbidities does not tell us about the impact of comorbidities, as this depends on the specific disease combinations and the severity of the individual diseases.