AIHW Board AIHW senior staff Annual report Capability statement Collaboration 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 health 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 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 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 publicationsOnline reportsRate our publication effectivenessSubscribe to release notices
By subject Adoptions Aged care Ageing Alcohol & other drugs Arthritis & musculoskeletal conditions Asthma Australia's health Australia's welfare Burden of disease Cancer Cardiovascular health 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 Prisoner 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 subject Adoptions Aged care Alcohol and other drugs Alcohol data sources Body weight data sources Cancer Children's headline indicators (CHI) Chronic disease indicators Data sources for monitoring health conditionsDeaths Disability
Expenditure FHBH - Fixing houses for better health General practice (GP) data Height and weight data sources Hospitals Indigenous Australians International collaboration Maternity Information Matrix (MIM) Medical indemnity
Mental health National Aged Care Data Clearinghouse National core maternity indicators (NCMI) National indicator catalogue Perinatal data Risk factors statistics 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 HHIMG
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
Worksheets 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 Media FAQ Media contacts
You are here:
Respiratory conditions affect the airways, including the lungs as well as the passages that transfer air from the mouth and nose into the lungs. They can be long lasting (chronic) or short term (acute) and can cause ill health, disability and death.
According to the Australian Health Survey, an estimated 6.3 million Australians suffered from a chronic respiratory condition in 2011-12 (ABS 2012).
Respiratory conditions are believed to be the most commonly managed problems in general practice. Data from the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health survey of general practitioners suggest that they were managed at a rate of approximately 20 times per 100 encounters from 2003-04 to 2012-13 (Britt et al. 2013).
In 2012, there were 13,258 deaths where the underlying cause was a respiratory condition (acute or chronic)(ABS 2014). Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a leading cause of death in Australia and internationally, and asthma deaths rates in Australia are high in comparison with many other countries (AIHW 2014 forthcoming).
Chronic respiratory conditions can be grouped together in a variety of ways. One common grouping is obstructive lung diseases (diseases affecting the flow of air in and out of the lungs), such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchiectasis, versus other respiratory conditions, such as chronic sinusitis and occupational lung disease.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways. People with asthma experience episodes of wheezing, breathlessness and chest tightness due to widespread narrowing of the airways. An estimated 2.3 million Australians had asthma in 2011–12 (ABS 2012).
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) limits airflow in the lungs, which can lead to mild or severe shortness of breath that is not fully reversible even with treatment. COPD is a serious long-term disease that mainly affects older people. An estimated 530,000 Australians had COPD in 2011–12 (ABS 2012).
'Hay fever' is a term commonly used to describe allergic rhinitis when it is caused by seasonal exposure to pollen. Allergic rhinitis is one of the most common chronic respiratory conditions, reported by an estimated 3.7 million Australians in 2011–12 (ABS 2012).
Bronchiectasis refers to an abnormal and irreversible widening of air passages in the lungs. People with bronchiectasis are prone to infections as mucus accumulates in the airways and becomes stagnant. It has a number of causes, including COPD, cystic fibrosis, low antibody levels and infections such as tuberculosis, whooping cough and measles.
Chronic sinusitis is the inflammation of the lining of one or more sinuses (large air cavities inside the face bones). It occurs when normal draining of the sinuses is obstructed by swelling, excessive mucus, or an abnormality in the structure of the sinuses. It can cause discomfort and pain and is often linked to similar inflammation inside the nose. An estimated 1.9 million Australians had chronic sinusitis in 2011–12 (ABS 2012).
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a hereditary disease in which mucus from glands is thicker and stickier than normal, affecting the lungs and other organs. Difficulty in clearing mucus from the airway leads to chest infections and airflow obstruction, with related problems such as bronchiectasis and shortened life expectancy. In December 2012, there were 3,156 people on the Australian Cystic Fibrosis Data Registry (Cystic Fibrosis Australia 2013).
Occupational lung diseases result from breathing in harmful dusts or fumes, such as silica, asbestos and coal dust. This exposure typically occurs in the workplace. Pneumoconiosis, or scarring of the lung tissue caused by inhaled dust, is one of the most common forms of occupational lung disease.
Sleep apnoea is a condition that affects breathing while asleep. It reduces airflow which causes intermittent dips in the amount of oxygen in the blood and disturbs sleep. The individual with sleep apnoea is often unaware of the night-time breathing difficulties.
Pulmonary fibrosis is a scarring or thickening of the lungs. It affects the transfer of oxygen into the blood. Sometimes a cause can be identified for this but often the cause is not known. In this case it is described as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Australian national prevalence statistics for asthma, COPD, allergic rhinitis and chronic sinusitis mentioned above are based on self-reported data in the Australian Health Survey 2011–13. There is little information available on the overall prevalence in Australia for bronchiectasis, occupational lung diseases, sleep apnoea and pulmonary fibrosis.
More comprehensive information can be found in the reports listed on our publications page.
ABS 2012. Australian Health Survey: First Results, 2011–12 . ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS. Viewed on 13 May 2013, <www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4364.0.55.0012011-12?OpenDocument>.
ABS 2014. Causes of Death, 2012, ABS cat. no. 3303.0. Canberra: ABS. Viewed on 8 May 2014, <http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/3303.02012?OpenDocument>.
AIHW et al. 2014, forthcoming. Mortality from asthma and COPD in Australia. Canberra: AIHW.
Britt H, Miller G, Henderson J, Charles J, Valenti L, Harrison C et al. 2013. A decade of Australian general practice activity 2003-04 to 2012-13 . General practice series no. 34. Sydney: Sydney University Press.
Cystic Fibrosis Australia 2013. Cystic Fibrosis in Australia 2012. Baulkham Hills: Cystic Fibrosis Australia.