How healthy are we?

Australians are living longer—with more of those years lived in good health—and generally rate their health well. Australia also performs as well as or better than many other comparable countries on selected measures of health such as life expectancy. However, there are some areas where improvement can be made.

It is estimated that almost half of Australians had 1 or more chronic conditions in 2017–18. Common chronic conditions include cancer, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and mental and behavioural conditions.

Many factors can affect the health of individuals and communities, and some serious health issues are related to lifestyle factors, for example tobacco use, overweight and obesity and dietary risks.

Australia’s health system

Every day, many Australians come into contact with the health system. It could be through a visit to a doctor, dentist or specialist; by picking up a prescription from a pharmacist; by receiving a vaccination at school; or by going to hospital because of an accident or to have surgery.

Our health system is a complex mix of programs and services. It includes public and private hospitals, primary health care services (such as general practitioners and allied health services), and referred medical services (including many specialists). Many health services are paid for, and delivered by, the Australian or state and territory governments, while others are managed by private or not-for-profit organisations. All are supported and delivered by a range of health professionals including doctors, nurses, specialists, and administrative staff. Together, these organisations and professionals work to keep us healthy.

The health system works to reduce the burden that ill health places on the community through a mixture of preventive health measures. These include:

  • vaccination programs and public health campaigns
  • early detection programs such as cancer screening
  • assistance with normal life events such as giving birth
  • provision of curative measures and treatments such as medicines and surgery
  • ongoing management of incurable conditions such as diabetes care
  • palliative care for the terminally ill.

Some of the Australian health system's biggest success stories have included improvements in cancer survival rates and maternal mortality.

All is not equal

A person’s health is closely linked to the conditions in which they live and work. Factors such as socioeconomic position, educational attainment, employment opportunities, disability status, access to health services, social supports, and the built and natural environments can strengthen or undermine the health of individuals and communities.

Generally, Australians can expect to enjoy long and relatively healthy lives, however, there are disparities across some population groups.

Often, people living in rural and remote and/or lower socioeconomic areas, people with disability, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher rates of illness, hospitalisation and death than other Australians.