Burden of disease analysis measures the impact of disease and injury in a population by estimating the amount of ‘disability-adjusted life years’ (DALY) experienced by the population. 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 216 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 2015

The ABDS 2015 is based on the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s previous burden of disease studies and provides an update of the Australian-specific burden of disease estimates since the ABDS 2011. This new study provides estimates for the reference year 2015 and recalculations of the 2011 and 2003 estimates using new data sources and methods, where applicable. Several key improvements were adopted for the ABDS 2015 compared with the ABDS 2011. These improvements were: developing a more comprehensive list of diseases and risk factors, adopting new conceptual models for some diseases, using better data sources (more linked data) to estimate disease burden and estimating a new measure—the health-adjusted life expectancy (HALE). See Chapter 5 of the ABDS 2015 detailed report for more information on HALE.

Burden of disease summary measures

Attributable burden: The amount of burden that could be reduced if exposure to the risk factor had been avoided.

Years lived with disability (YLD): A measure of the years spent in less than full health due to living with disease and injury. YLD represent non-fatal burden.

Years of life lost (YLL): A measure of the years of life lost due to premature death, defined as dying before the ideal life span. YLL represent fatal burden.

Disability-adjusted life years (DALY): A measure (in years) of healthy life lost either through living with illness due to disease and injury (YLD) or through dying prematurely (YLL). The DALY measure represents total burden (the sum of YLD and YLL) and is referred to as health loss.