Stroke death rates drop 70% in 30 years

Stroke death rates in Australia fell by 70% between 1979 and 2010, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Stroke and its management in Australia: an update, shows that there were 8,300 deaths from stroke in 2010. This represents 6% of all deaths, or about 23 deaths a day.

While death rates have fallen, the total number of strokes rose by about 6% over the same period. This is largely due to the ageing of the population, noting that most strokes occur in older people (aged 65 and over).

'Despite the higher total number of strokes, the rates of stroke across the population fell-by an estimated 25% between 1997 and 2009,' said AIHW spokesperson Ann Hunt.

There were more than 35,300 hospitalisations for stroke and 25,800 hospitalisations for rehabilitation care associated with stroke in 2009-10.

'The good news is that more people are surviving a stroke than previously, and disability caused by stroke has fallen, from 45% of cases to 35%,' Ms Hunt said.

Specialised care facilities, or stroke units, have been shown to significantly improve health outcomes for stroke patients, and the number of these facilities has increased.

'There is evidence to suggest that patients admitted to stroke units have better outcomes than other patients, so it is particularly important that patients are admitted to these units where possible,' Ms Hunt said.

Between 2007 and 2011, the number of stroke units in public hospitals rose from 54 to 74 and the proportion of patients receiving stroke unit care rose from 50% to 60%.

'Currently, 39% of those hospitals required to admit and manage people with acute stroke have a specialised stroke unit. While this proportion has risen in recent years, it is still low compared to other countries with similar economies to Australia's.'

Informal carers also play an important role in the care and recovery of stroke survivors, with an estimated 75,000 providing assistance to people with stroke and disability in 2009.

'More than half of these informal carers spend 40 hours or more each week in their caring role,' Ms Hunt said.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 3 July 2013

Further information: Ms Ann Hunt, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1238, mob. 0418 271 395