Indigenous Australians—100,000 years of life lost to premature death each year

Around 3,000 Indigenous Australians die each year, resulting in almost 100,000 years of life lost due to premature death, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Australian Burden of Disease Study: Fatal burden of disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2010, provides estimates of the fatal burden of disease and injury for Indigenous Australians, as well as estimates of the 'gap' in fatal burden between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Fatal burden is calculated in terms of years of life lost, or YLL, due to deaths occurring earlier than expected. For example, a death occurring in infancy will have a much higher burden or YLL than a death occurring at an older age from something like cardiovascular disease.

Injuries and cardiovascular diseases contributed the most fatal burden for Indigenous Australians (22% and 21% respectively), followed by cancer (17%), infant and congenital conditions (10%), gastrointestinal diseases (6%) and endocrine disorders (which includes diabetes) (5%). These disease groups accounted for 82% of all Indigenous YLL in 2010.

Deaths in infants contributed the most to Indigenous YLL. The fatal burden in Indigenous infants was largely due to infant and congenital conditions, which includes causes such as pre-term birth complications, birth trauma and congenital defects.

'Injuries were the leading cause of fatal burden among Indigenous persons aged 1- 34, after which cardiovascular diseases and cancer were most prominent,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman.

In 2010, the rate of fatal burden experienced by Indigenous Australians was 2.6 times the rate of fatal burden experienced by non-Indigenous Australians.

YLL rates for injuries and cardiovascular diseases were almost 3 times as high in the Indigenous population.

The diseases for which relative disparities in fatal burden were most pronounced between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations were endocrine disorders, and kidney and urinary diseases-YLL rates for Indigenous Australians were 8 and 7 times the rates for non-Indigenous Australians for these two disease groups respectively.

'Indigenous Australians living in areas with the most socioeconomic disadvantage experienced the highest rates of fatal burden, while those living in areas with the least socioeconomic disadvantage experienced the lowest YLL rates', Dr Al-Yaman said.

The AIHW will release a more comprehensive report on the burden of disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in 2016, covering fatal and non-fatal burden for specific causes, as well as the burden attributable to selected health risk factors.

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.


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