Chronic diseases are long lasting conditions with persistent effects. Their social and economic consequences can impact on peoples’ quality of life. Chronic conditions are becoming increasingly common and are a priority for action in the health sector. Many people with chronic conditions do not have a single, predominant condition, but rather they experience multimorbidity – the presence of 2 or more chronic conditions in a person at the same time.
AIHW commonly reports on 10 major chronic condition groups: arthritis, asthma, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, mental health conditions and osteoporosis.
These chronic conditions were selected for reporting because they are common, pose significant health problems, have been the focus of ongoing AIHW surveillance efforts and, in many instances, action can be taken to prevent their occurrence.
Australian Centre for Monitoring Population Health
Latest data and information on the health of Australians
A disease is defined as a physical or mental disturbance involving symptoms (such as pain or feeling unwell), dysfunction or tissue damage that may lead to ill health. Diseases can be acute (coming on sharply, often brief, intense and/or severe) or chronic (long-lasting with persistent effects ranging from mild to severe) or, in some cases, both. Common features of chronic diseases include:
- complex causality, with multiple factors leading to their onset
- a long development period, for which there may be no symptoms
- a prolonged course of illness, perhaps leading to other health complications
- associated functional impairment or disability.
Chronic diseases can range from mild to more significant conditions and include:
- cardiovascular conditions (such as coronary heart disease and stroke)
- cancers (such as lung and colorectal cancer)
- mental disorders (such as depression)
- respiratory diseases (including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- arthritis, osteoporosis and other musculoskeletal conditions
- chronic kidney disease
- oral diseases (such as tooth decay and gum disease).
Changes to our lifestyles and reduction in other diseases in the last hundred years have meant that chronic diseases are increasingly common and now cause most of the burden of ill health. In addition to the personal and community costs, chronic diseases result in a significant economic burden because of the combined effects of health-care costs and lost productivity from illness and death. A key focus of the Australian health system, therefore, is the prevention and better management of chronic disease to improve health outcomes.
More information including our most recent data: Chronic conditions and multimorbidity
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