International Health - How do we rate?

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that on the international scene overall our health is good - but there are plenty of differences in the details, depending on what aspect of health is being compared.

In International Health - How Australia Compares our health is compared with 19 other developed countries using 70 indicators of health. It draws on data from annual reports to the WHO and the United Nations, complemented by data from the AIHW, ABS, the OECD, and other national and international organisations.

The report's co-author, Dr Kuldeep Bhatia, said that with so many indicators and such diverse countries, some interesting facts emerge.

'For example, when we looked at cigarette smoking - a major cause of death - we found that Australia had the 4th lowest rate of male regular smokers among the developed countries. In 1992 approximately 30% of Australian men were regular smokers, compared with approximately 60% of Japanese men.'

International Health - How Australia Compares also shows that while our birth rate is high compared with other developed countries, in 1994 the birth rate for mothers aged between 25 and 29 - typically the age group with the highest birth rate - was 126 births per 1,000 women, the lowest recorded to that date for Australian women.

Other findings in International Health - How Australia Compares include:

  • In 1992 the Australia age-standardised female death rate for all causes was 347 per 100,000, placing Australia in the bottom half of the 20 comparison countries.
  • Death rates for injury and poisoning have been declining over the past several decades in most developed countries. The rate for males in Australia declined by 1.5% p.a. between 1950-54 and 1992. This rate of decline was the largest among all comparison countries, and is mainly due to the decline in fatal road accidents.
  • The oral health of Australian children has improved consistently over recent years and the percentage of children with no dental caries had increased. In 1995 the Australian DMFT (Decayed, Missing, or Filled Teeth) score for 12 year olds was 1.0 - a low score among developed countries.
  • In 1995, among 20 developed countries, Australia ranked 6th for beer consumption, 8th for wine consumption and 12th for spirits consumption per capita.

24 February 1999


Further information: Dr Kuldeep Bhatia, ph. 02 6244 1144, or Mr Michael de Looper, ph. 02 6244 1137.
For media copies of the report: Lena Searle, ph. 02 6244 1032.