Burden of disease analysis measures the impact of disease and injury in a population by estimating the number of healthy years of life lost (‘disability-adjusted life years’ or DALY). This measure counts the combined years of healthy life lost due to living with and dying prematurely from disease and injury. Burden of disease in Australia is measured for 219 diseases and injuries (grouped into 17 disease groups). Rather than just counting deaths and disease prevalence, it takes into account the age at death and severity of disease to estimate the total health loss. The contribution of various modifiable risk factors to disease burden is also estimated.

Information on the burden of disease and injuries as well as the contribution of various risk factors to burden is important for monitoring population health and for providing an evidence base to inform health policy and service planning.

Australian Burden of Disease Study (ABDS) 2018

The ABDS 2018 is based on the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) previous burden of disease studies and provides an update of the Australian-specific burden of disease estimates since the ABDS 2015.

The ABDS 2018, prepared for publication in 2021, provides estimates for the reference year 2018 and recalculations of the 2015, 2011 and 2003 estimates using new data sources and methods, where applicable. The study estimates the total, fatal and non-fatal burden of disease at the national level, as well as by state and territory, remoteness area and socioeconomic group.

This report is a summary of the ABDS 2018 findings. Full results and more detailed information can be found in the ABDS 2018 detailed report, methods report and interactive data visualisations. Detailed estimates and comparisons of burden of disease between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians for 2018 will be published in early 2022 (AIHW forthcoming 2022). Additionally, health-care expenditure estimates for all of the diseases and injuries included in the ABDS 2018 can be found in the AIHW report Disease expenditure in Australia 2018–19.

Several key improvements were adopted for the ABDS 2018 compared with the ABDS 2015. Among these improvements were: a more comprehensive list of diseases and risk factors of relevance in Australia, and better use of linked health data to estimate disease burden. See chapters 1 and 10 of the ABDS detailed report for more nformation on improvements between ABDS 2015 and ABDS 2018.

In 2018, Australians lost 5 million years of healthy life (total burden, DALY) due to:

Living with illness (non‑fatal)
52% of total burden

Dying prematurely (fatal)
48% of total burden