New report monitors cost of diseases in Australia

The AIHW has completed the first systematic analysis of the total health system costs of disease and injury in Australia.

Health System Costs of Diseases and Injury in Australia 1993-94 provides the best possible estimates of health system resources directed at the prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries, given the limitations of available health system cost and utilisation data.

According to the report, total recurrent health expenditure in Australia in 1993-94 was $34.1 billion. The disease cost estimates include 92% of this expenditure, or just over $31 billion in total. The main components of health expenditure not yet included in the disease cost estimates are capital expenditure, community health services and public health programs (apart from three cancer public health programs).

The disease groups that account for the most health expenditure in Australia are:

  • circulatory diseases $3.7 billion (12% of total health system costs)
  • digestive system diseases $3.7 billion (12%)
  • musculoskeletal problems $3.0 billion (9.5%)
  • injury and poisoning $2.6 billion (8.3%)
  • mental disorders $2.6 billion (8.3%)
  • respiratory diseases $2.5 billion (8.0%).

AIHW's Principal Research Fellow, Dr Colin Mathers, said that digestive system diseases were the second most expensive group in part because of the large expenditure on dental services ($1.8 billion). "However, they account for relatively few deaths compared with disease groups such as circulatory system, injury and cancers (in eighth position at $1.9 billion), " he said.

Other findings of the report include:

  • Total health system costs for females are 34% higher than those for males: $18.0 billion compared with $13.4 billion. The male-female difference in per person costs is greatest in the peak reproductive years, where average annual costs for women aged 25-34 years were $1,695, almost double the average cost, of $865, for men of the same age.
  • Total health system costs for men increase with age peaking in the age group 65-74 years, whereas those for women peak in the age group 25-34 years, reflecting child bearing and health costs related to the genitourinary system.
  • In 1993-94, average health system costs per capita ranged from a minimum of around $800 per year for boys aged 5-14 years to $7,900 per year for women aged 75 years and over.

A companion volume, Disease Costing Methodology used in the Disease Costs and Impact Study 1993-94, details the methodology and assumptions used to estimate the health system costs of diseases and injury in Australia.

17 September 1998


Further information: Dr Colin Mathers, Principal Research Fellow, AIHW, ph. 02 6244 1138 or 04 0792 8523 (mobile).
For media copies of the report: Lena Searle, ph. 02 6244 1032.