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Australia's health 2016—We're a mostly healthy bunch, but we have room to improve

Australia has much to be proud of in many areas of health, according to the latest health report card delivered by the AIHW.

However, Australia's health 2016, the AIHW's 15th biennial health report, also shows that lifestyle-related chronic diseases continue to take a toll.

The report was launched in Canberra in September by the Hon. Sussan Ley, Minister for Health and Aged Care, Minister for Sport.

AIHW Director and CEO Barry Sandison said, 'On the positive side, our report shows that we have increasingly longer life expectancy, lower death rates for cancer and many other diseases, and 85% of us say that we are in good or excellent health.'

Life expectancy, the 'universal health indicator', places Australia among the top nations in the world-sixth for women and eighth for men—but very close to the first-placed nations in 2013 (Switzerland for males, Japan for females).

'We are living 25 years longer on average than a century ago—a boy born today can expect to live to 80.3 years, and a girl to 84.4 years,' Mr Sandison said.

Despite an increase in the absolute number of deaths, there has been a long and continuing fall in death rates in Australia. From 1907 to 2013, the age-standardised death rates for males and females fell by 71% and 76% respectively.

'However, we also see that Australians are increasingly living with chronic diseases, which typically are long-lasting and have persistent effects.'

Chronic diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes, are the leading cause of illness, disability and death in Australia. In 2013, eight selected chronic diseases (arthritis, asthma, back pain and problems, cancer, cardiovascular disease, COPD, diabetes, and mental health conditions) accounted for 73% of all deaths.

The report also looks at the risk factors shared by many chronic diseases. Many of these common risk factors are preventable, such as smoking, physical inactivity, poor nutrition and the harmful use of alcohol.

'These risk factors can lead to overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, which in turn can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and mental health issues,' Mr Sandison said.

The report shows that, in Australia, more than 3 in 5 adults (63%) are overweight or obese. Nearly 1 in 2 (45%) do not exercise enough for health benefits, and in 2014–15, only 7% of adults were eating the recommended daily serves of vegetables and 50% were eating enough fruit.

AIHW Access no. 40 (4MB PDF) 

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