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released: 23 Jun 2010 author: AIHW media release

Australia's health 2010 is the 12th biennial health report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. It's the nation's premier source of statistics and informed commentary on: determinants of health and keys to prevention; diseases and injury; how health varies across population groups; health across the life stages; health services, expenditure and workforce; the health sector's performance. If you're interested in health, Australia's health 2010 is an essential reference for your bookshelf.

ISSN 1032-6138; ISBN 978-1-74249-002-1; Cat. no. AUS 122; 579pp.; $15

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Key points

This section presents selected key findings from the report. Also, each chapter from 2 to 8 begins with its own list of key points. Please refer to the index at the back to help you find more detail on these topics.


Life expectancy and death

  • Australia’s life expectancy at birth continues to rise and is among the highest in the world—almost 84 years for females and 79 years for males.
  • Death rates are falling for many of our major health problems such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and injuries.
  • Coronary heart disease causes the largest number of ‘lost years’ through death among males aged under 75 years, and breast cancer causes the most among females.


  • Cancer is Australia’s leading broad cause of disease burden (19% of the total), followed by cardiovascular disease (16%) and mental disorders (13%).
  • The rate of heart attacks continues to fall, and survival from them continues to improve.
  • Around 1 in 5 Australians aged 16–85 years has a mental disorder at some time in a 12-month period, including 1 in 4 of those aged 16–24 years.
  • The burden of Type 2 diabetes is increasing and it is expected to become the leading cause of disease burden by 2023.
  • The incidence of treated end-stage kidney disease is increasing, with diabetes as the main cause.

Health risks

  • Risk factors contribute to over 30% of Australia’s total burden of death, disease and disability.
  • Tobacco smoking is the single most preventable cause of ill health and death in Australia.
  • However, Australia’s level of smoking continues to fall and is among the lowest for OECD countries, with a daily smoking rate of about 1 in 6 adults in 2007.
  • Three in 5 adults (61%) were either overweight or obese in 2007–08.
  • One in 4 children (25%) aged 5–17 years were overweight or obese in 2007–08.
  • Of Australians aged 15–74 years in 2006–2007, less than half (41%) had an adequate or better level of health literacy.
  • Rates of sexually transmissible infections continue to increase, particularly among young people.
  • Use of illicit drugs has generally declined in Australia, including the use of methamphetamines (the drug group that includes ‘ice’).

Life stages

Mothers and babies

  • The proportion of females having caesarean sections has continued to increase over the latest decade, from 21% in 1998 to 31% in 2007.
  • The perinatal death rate of babies born to Indigenous mothers in 2007 was twice that of other babies.

Children and young Australians

  • Death rates among children and young people halved in the two decades to 2007, largely due to fewer deaths from transport accidents.
  • More children are being vaccinated against major preventable childhood diseases, with 91% (the target level) being fully vaccinated at 2 years of age—but only 82% of 5 year olds are covered.
  • Land transport accidents and intentional self-harm accounted for 2 in every 5 deaths (42%) among young Australians (aged 15–24 years) in 2007.

People aged 25–64 years

  • The main causes of death in this age group in 2007 were coronary heart disease for males (14% of their deaths) and breast cancer for females (12%).

Older Australians

  • For older people, the main causes of death are heart disease, stroke and cancer.
  • At age 65, Australian males can now expect to live a further 19 years to almost 84 years of age, and females a further 22 years to almost 87.

Groups of special interest

  • People with disability are more likely than others to have poor physical and mental health, and higher rates of risk factors such as smoking and overweight.
  • Compared with those who have social and economic advantages, disadvantaged Australians are more likely to have shorter lives.
  • Indigenous people are generally less healthy than other Australians, die at much younger ages, and have more disability and a lower quality of life.
  • People living in rural and remote areas tend to have higher levels of disease risk factors and illness than those in major cities.
  • Compared with the general community, prisoners have significantly worse health, with generally higher levels of diseases, mental illness and illicit drug use than Australians overall.
  • Most migrants enjoy health that is equal to or better than that of the Australian-born population—often with lower rates of death, mental illness and disease risk factors.
  • Compared with those in the general community, Defence Force members have better health, although their work can place them at higher risk of injury.
  • The veteran community is less likely than the general community to report being in very good or excellent health.

Health services

  • In 2007–08, just over 2% of total health expenditure was for preventive services or health promotion.
  • Between 1998–99 and 2008–09, there was an increase in general practitioners’ management of some chronic diseases, including hypertension, diabetes and depression.
  • Ambulances attended 2.9 million incidents in 2008–09, of which 39% were emergencies.
  • The number of hospital admissions rose by 37% in the decade to 2007–08.
  • Over half of the hospital admissions (56%) in 2007–08 were same-day admissions, compared with 48% in 1998–99.
  • In 2008–09, about 1 in 9 of all prescriptions under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme were for a mental health-related medication.

Health workforce

  • Employment in health occupations is still growing—23% growth between 2003 and 2008, almost double that across all occupations (13%).
  • Between 2002 and 2007, there was a 26% increase in people completing health occupation university courses.
  • The mix of the medical workforce changed between 1997 and 2007
    • the supply of primary care doctors (in ‘full-time equivalent’ numbers per 100,000 population) has decreased
    • the supply of specialists, specialists-in-training and hospital-based non-specialists has increased.

Health expenditure

  • Health expenditure during 2007–08 was $103.6 billion, exceeding $100 billion for the first time.
  • Health expenditure in 2007–08 equalled 9.1% of gross domestic product (GDP).
  • As a share of its GDP, Australia spent more than the United Kingdom in 2007–08 (8.4%), a similar amount to the OECD median (8.9%) and much less than the United States (16%).
  • Governments funded almost 70% of health expenditure in 2007–08.
  • For Indigenous Australians in 2006–07, spending per person on health and high-level residential aged care was 25% higher than for other Australians.

Recommended citation

AIHW 2010. Australia's health 2010. Australia's health no. 12. Cat. no. AUS 122. Canberra: AIHW.

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