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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are more likely than other Australians to have, be hospitalised for, and die from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease-and at younger ages-according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease-Australian facts: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, shows that in 2011-13, 27% of Indigenous adults had cardiovascular disease, compared with 21% of non-Indigenous adults.  

'The difference was even greater for diabetes and chronic kidney disease. While just 5% of non-Indigenous adults had diabetes, 18% of Indigenous adults had the condition. For chronic kidney disease, 10% of non-Indigenous adults had the disease, but for Indigenous adults, this was 22%,' said AIHW spokesperson Sushma Mathur.

Not only are these diseases more prevalent among Indigenous Australians, death rates are also higher. For cardiovascular disease, the Indigenous death rate was 1.5 times as high as for non-Indigenous Australians-280 and 183 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively.

Diabetes contributed to 21% of all Indigenous deaths, compared with 10% of non-Indigenous deaths. For chronic kidney disease, these rates were 16% and 10%.

'The gap in death rates between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians was widest among younger age groups-for example, the cardiovascular disease death rate for Indigenous people aged 35-44 was 8 times as high as for non-Indigenous people, falling to 4 times as high for the 55-64 year old age group, Ms Mathur said.

Not only are Indigenous Australians more likely to have each of these conditions individually, they are also more likely to have all 3, and die from them.

'For example, more than 10% of Indigenous deaths had all 3 conditions listed as causes of death. For non-Indigenous Australians, all 3 conditions were recorded in just 3% of deaths.'

The report also shows high levels of risk factors among Indigenous Australians.

Compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts, Indigenous Australians were more like to smoke daily (42% and 16% respectively), be overweight or obese (72% and 63%), and have high blood pressure (25% and 21%).

These risk factors are associated with higher rates of disease, hospitalisation, and increased likelihood of having multiple conditions.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 25 November

Further information: Ms Sushma Mathur, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1067 mob. 0407 915 851

Full publication: Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease-Australian facts: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people