Heart disease and accidents drive death rates up in regional and remote areas

Preventable conditions such as coronary heart disease and traffic accidents were two of the main reasons for the higher death rates in regional and remote areas, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Rural, regional and remote Australia: a study on mortality, found that death rates in regional and remote areas of Australia were higher than those in major cities.

'We found that death rates were about 10% higher in regional areas, and as much as 70% higher in very remote areas,' said Sally Bullock of the AIHW's Population Health Unit.

'The higher death rates in remote areas mainly reflects the relatively higher proportions of Indigenous Australians in these areas, and the higher rate of mortality for Indigenous Australians overall,' Ms Bullock said.

'Interestingly, the analysis shows that people over age 65 who live in remote areas have lower death rates than their counterparts in major cities. The higher death rates are particularly concentrated in people younger than 65,' she said.

For people aged less than 65 years, the major causes of elevated deaths rates outside major cities were motor vehicle traffic accidents (18%), coronary heart disease (13%) and suicide (9%).

The gap in death rates between major cities and regional and remote areas did not change significantly between 1997-99 and 2002-04.

Higher death rates in more remote areas may also reflect higher prevalence of behaviours associated with poorer health (for example smoking or alcohol consumption) as well as any impact of location (for example accessibility and availability of health services).

18 December 2007

Further information: Ms Sally Bullock, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1008, mob. 0407 915 851.

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