Death rates down across all socioeconomic groups

Death rates declined across all socioeconomic groups in Australia between 1985-1987 and 1998-2000, according to a report released today by the Minister for Health and Ageing, Tony Abbott.

The report, Health Inequalities in Australia: Mortality, published jointly by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), also shows a narrowing of differences in the 'all causes' death rate between the least and most disadvantaged groups.

For males the difference narrowed from 230 to 163 deaths per 100,000 population between 1985-1987, and 1998-2000, and for females the difference fell from 95 to 70 deaths per 100,000 population.

Report co-author Dr Gavin Turrell from QUT said that the findings were good news, but that mortality inequalities continued to exist between population subgroups in Australia.

'Despite improvements in the nation's health over the last century, it is still true, for example, that poorer people have poorer health - people living in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas of Australia still have higher death rates than those living in more advantaged areas.

'This applies for males and females across all age groups, and for many specific causes of death.

'Compared with the most advantaged areas, among males aged 25-64 years, mortality rates were significantly higher in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas for cardiovascular disease (by 112%), cancer (45%), diseases of the digestive system (130%) and diseases of the respiratory system (181%).

'Females in the same demographic had higher death rates for lung cancer (by 73%), cardiovascular disease (127%) and digestive system diseases (118%).'

The report also shows that during 1998-2000, death rates were also higher among males, people living in rural and remote regions, blue-collar workers and the Australian-born.

Dr Turrell said that much of the mortality burden and mortality differences between various groups was potentially avoidable.

Health Inequalities in Australia: Mortality was developed with financial assistance from the Australian Government's Public Health Education and Research Program (PHERP).

7 March 2005

Further information: Dr Gavin Turrell, QUT, tel. 07 3864 8285.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.