Glossary

age-standardisation: A way to remove the influence of age when comparing populations with different age structures. This is usually necessary because the rates of many diseases vary strongly (usually increasing) with age. The age structures of the different populations are converted to the same ‘standard’ structure, and then the disease rates that would have occurred with that structure are calculated and compared.

age structure: The relative number of people in each age group in a population.

Alzheimer disease: A condition marked by progressive loss of brain function, shown by worsening short-term memory, confusion and disorientation. A common form of dementia.

associated cause(s) of death: A cause(s) listed on the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, other than the underlying cause of death. They include the immediate cause, any intervening causes, and conditions that contributed to the death but were not related to the disease or condition causing death. See also cause of death.

bronchitis: Inflammation of the main air passages (bronchi). May be acute or chronic.

burden of disease and injury: A term referring to the quantified impact of a disease or injury on an individual or population, using the disability-adjusted life year (DALY) measure.

cancer (malignant neoplasm): A large range of diseases where some of the body’s cells become defective, begin to multiply out of control, invade and damage the area around them, and can then spread to other parts of the body to cause further damage.

cardiovascular disease/condition: Any disease of the circulatory system, namely the heart (cardio) or blood vessels (vascular). Includes angina, heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Also known as circulatory disease.

cause(s) of death: All diseases, morbid conditions or injuries that either resulted in or contributed to death—and the circumstances of the accident or violence that produced any such injuries—that are entered on the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. Causes of death are commonly reported by the underlying cause of death. See also associated cause(s) of death and multiple causes of death.

cerebrovascular disease: Any disorder of the blood vessels supplying the brain or its covering membranes. A notable and major form of cerebrovascular disease is stroke.

chronic: A term describing something that is persistent and long lasting.

chronic diseases/conditions: A diverse group of diseases/conditions, such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis, which tend to be long lasting and persistent in their symptoms or development. Although these features also apply to some communicable diseases (infectious diseases), the term is usually confined to non-communicable diseases.

chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): Serious, progressive and disabling long‑term lung disease where damage to the lungs (usually because of both emphysema and chronic bronchitis) obstructs oxygen intake and causes increasing shortness of breath. By far the greatest cause of COPD is cigarette smoking.

circulatory disease: Alternative name for cardiovascular disease.

coronary heart disease: A disease due to blockages in the heart’s own (coronary) arteries, expressed as angina or a heart attack. Also known as ischaemic heart disease.

dementia: A general term for disorders characterised by worsening mental processes (such as Alzheimer disease or vascular dementia). Symptoms include impaired memory, understanding, reasoning and physical functioning.

diabetes (diabetes mellitus): A chronic condition where the body cannot properly use its main energy source—the sugar glucose. This is due to a relative or absolute deficiency in insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps glucose enter the body’s cells from the bloodstream and be processed by them. Diabetes is marked by an abnormal build-up of glucose in the blood; it can have serious short- and long-term effects. For the three main types of diabetes, see type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.

disease: A physical or mental disturbance involving symptoms (such as pain or feeling unwell), dysfunction or tissue damage, especially if these symptoms and signs form a recognisable clinical pattern.

emphysema: A chronic lung disease where over-expansion or destruction of the lung tissue blocks oxygen intake, leading to shortness of breath and other problems.

heart failure: A condition that occurs when the heart functions less effectively in pumping blood around the body. It can result from a wide variety of diseases and conditions that can impair or overload the heart, such as heart attack, other conditions that damage the heart muscle directly (see cardiomyopathy), high blood pressure, or a damaged heart valve.

influenza (flu): An acute contagious viral respiratory infection marked by fever, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, cough and sore throat.

International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD): The World Health Organization’s internationally accepted classification of death and disease. The Tenth Revision (ICD-10) is currently in use.

ischaemia: A reduced or blocked blood supply. See also ischaemic heart disease.

ischaemic heart disease: See also heart attack and angina (chest pain). Also known as coronary heart disease. See also ischaemia.

life expectancy: An indication of how long a person can expect to live, depending on the age they have already reached. Technically, it is the number of years of life left to a person at a particular age if death rates do not change. The most commonly used measure is life expectancy at birth.

mortality: Number or rate of deaths in a population during a given time period.

multiple causes of death: All the causes listed on the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. These include the underlying cause of death and all associated cause(s) of death. See also cause of death.

pneumonia: Inflammation of the lungs as a response to infection by bacteria or viruses. The air sacs become flooded with fluid, and inflammatory cells and affected areas of the lung become solid. Pneumonia is often quite rapid in onset and marked by a high fever, headache, cough, chest pain and shortness of breath.

potentially avoidable deaths: Deaths among people younger than age 75 that are avoidable in the context of the present health care system. They include deaths from conditions that are potentially preventable through individualised care and/or treatable through existing primary or hospital care. They are a subset of premature deaths. The rate of potentially avoidable deaths in Australia is used as an indicator of the health system’s effectiveness. Potentially avoidable deaths are classified using nationally agreed definitions.

rate: A rate is one number (the numerator) divided by another number (the denominator). The numerator is commonly the number of events in a specified time. The denominator is the population ‘at risk’ of the event. Rates (crude, age-specific and age-standardised) are generally multiplied by a number such as 100,000 to create whole numbers.

stroke: An event that occurs when an artery supplying blood to the brain suddenly becomes blocked or bleeds. A stroke often causes paralysis of parts of the body normally controlled by that area of the brain, or speech problems and other symptoms. It is a major form of cerebrovascular disease.

underlying cause of death: The disease or injury that initiated the train of events leading directly to death, or the circumstances of the accident or violence that produced the fatal injury. See also cause of death and associated cause(s) of death.