Changes in leading risk factors over time
Attributable burden was estimated for the years 2003, 2011, 2015 and 2018 for selected risk factors. Due to lack of suitable data, air pollution was estimated in 2015 and 2018 only; high blood plasma glucose levels in 2011, 2015 and 2018 only; and low birth weight and short gestation in 2018 only.
For risk factors where data was available over time, the risk factors contributed 37% of the total burden in Australia in 2003 compared with 35% in 2018. This decrease demonstrates a small improvement in the amount of health loss attributable to modifiable risk factors.
Tobacco use, overweight (including obesity), all dietary risks and high blood pressure were consistently the leading 4 risk factors in each of the years of 2003, 2011, 2015 and 2018. High blood pressure decreased from the 2nd highest risk factor in 2003 to the 4th highest in 2018, whereas the reverse was seen in overweight (including obesity) rankings— moving from the 4th highest risk factor in 2003 to the 2nd highest risk factor in 2018.
There were decreases between 2003 and 2018 in the age-standardised rate of total burden attributable to risk factors for high cholesterol by 53%, for high blood pressure by 49%, for dietary risks by 42%, for physical inactivity by 34%, and for tobacco use by 32%. Decreases in burden from cardiovascular diseases linked to these risk factors contributed to the decrease in rate of attributable burden.
In females, child abuse & neglect ranked high (6th in 2018) compared with males (not in the 10 leading risk factors in 2018). Conversely, occupational exposures & hazards ranked higher in males compared with females (ranked 9th and not in the 10 leading risk factors in 2018, respectively).
When looking at non-fatal burden, overweight (including obesity) and tobacco use were consistently the leading 2 risk factors in the years 2003, 2011, 2015 and 2018. High blood glucose ranked 5th in 2015, and 6th in 2011 and 2018, however was not included in the rankings for 2003 due to lack of suitable data.
In males, alcohol use, occupational exposures & hazards and illicit drug use ranked higher for non-fatal burden (2nd, 5th and 6th respectively in 2018) compared with females. Intimate partner violence ranked 6th for non-fatal burden in 2018, however this risk factor was only estimated in females due to lack of suitable data in males.
When looking at the number of deaths attributable to risk factors, tobacco use, overweight (including obesity), dietary risks and high blood pressure consistently contributed the most in Australia across all years, for both males and females.