New data shows palliative care improved or maintained wellbeing for majority of patients

Three new studies from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) assess the state of the palliative care system in Australia and its effect on patients, carers, and workforce. 

This includes the creation of a new set of care measures which will allow for the first time an assessment of the current state of the system and provide an essential tool for sector improvements.

“Palliative care aims to prevent and relieve suffering and improve the quality of life of people and their families facing fatal illness,” AIHW spokesperson Karen Higgins said.  

“Care can be delivered by a wide range of health and community providers. It is not limited to any specific condition, and it can be delivered at any stage of illness. As such it is a complex, important, and emotive topic for study.”

The studies have been released to coincide with and complement National Palliative Care Week, the nation’s largest palliative care awareness-raising initiative. The work highlights the significant and ongoing reforms across the health, aged care and disability sectors, as well as the positive contribution to patients’ lives palliative care makes. 

Between financial years 2015–22, the palliative care-related hospitalisation rate increased from 31 to 37 per 10,000 population. This increase was mainly due to an ageing population, resulting in more palliative care occurring in Australia.

Males and females are relatively evenly represented, with males accounting for just over half (53%) of the palliative care hospitalisations in 2021–22. Admission ages averaged 75 years. Cancer dominates the palliative care population, affecting 2 in 5 (40%) patients. 

Regarding patient wellbeing in 2022, nearly 4 in 5 (79%) palliative care patients reported that they experienced either an improvement or maintained their psychological state after treatment. Seven in 10 (71%) experienced an improvement or maintained pain levels. Patients experienced that just less than 3 in 4 (74%) of families and carers problems either improved or remained at a low level after intervention.

The proportions have remained reasonably stable since 2018, however do differ by age group. Patient wellbeing measures are lower for younger people, compared to older (over 85 years). For example, in 2022 distress related to pain improved or was maintained in 64% of cases for ages 35–44 versus 76% for ages 85 and over. Psychological wellbeing improved or was maintained for 74% of people aged 35–44 versus 84% for ages 85 and over.

When examining health service use, it was found that patients are only receiving palliative care treatment a median of 15 days before death.

The AIHW’s three releases, National palliative care measures, Palliative care and health service use for people with life-limiting conditions and Palliative care services in Australia highlight activity in the sector from service availability treatments, workforce and patient/carer experiences, with the end goal of finding gaps and ultimately improving the lives and end-of-life for Australians.   

“The information from each of these releases is crucial for better understanding the current situation and providing evidence for future planning,” Ms Higgins said. 

National Palliative Care Week, which takes place annually and runs until this Saturday, also highlights the need to educate and empower Australians about quality of life towards the end of life.  For more information on activities and accessing palliative care services, visit  

More AIHW palliative care information and reports are available here.   

Media enquiries: Stuart Turner, AIHW: Tel: 0415 403 208

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