Many cardiovascular hospitalisations and deaths tied to socioeconomic differences

A report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) says thousands of hospitalisations and deaths from cardiovascular disease, particularly coronary heart disease and stroke, could be avoided if rates among the least advantaged were the same as those from the more socioeconomically advantages areas of Australia.

The report, Socioeconomic inequalities in cardiovascular disease in Australia: Current patterns and trends since 1992, shows that in 2002, adults from the most disadvantaged areas of Australia (areas characterised by low income, low educational attainment and unemployment) had significantly higher death rates from cardiovascular disease (CVD), coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke than adults from the least disadvantaged areas-between 1.6 and 1.9 times as high.

Ms Lynelle Moon, of the Institute's Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes Unit said, 'If everyone experienced the same death rates as those in the more socioeconomically advantaged areas, around 28% of deaths from cardiovascular disease, 32% of deaths from coronary heart disease and 24% of deaths from stroke might have been avoided in 2002. This translates to over 3,400 deaths which may be regarded as being due to socioeconomic inequality.'

Despite falls in CVD death rates between 1992 and 2002 for all socioeconomic groups, the proportion of those deaths due to socioeconomic inequality has increased over the same period.

Compared with those in more socioeconomically advantaged areas, in 2003-04, adults living in the most disadvantaged areas of Australia also had significantly higher hospitalisation rates for all types of cardiovascular disease, including coronary emergencies and stroke.

'Again, if everyone experienced the same hospitalisation rates as those in the most advantaged areas, around 16% of all CVD hospitalisations, and 38% of emergency coronary heart disease and 24% of stroke hospitalisations, might have been avoided in 2003-04. This translates to almost 45,400 CVD hospitalisations,' Ms Moon said.

Despite falls in hospitalisation rates for all socioeconomic groups between 1996-97 and 2003-04 the proportion of hospitalisations due to socioeconomic inequality increased substantially for acute coronary syndrome, from 19% to 32% for males and from 28% to 41% for females.

2 August 2006

Further information: Ms Lynelle Moon AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1235.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1032.