Changes in leading risk factors over time
Attributable burden was estimated for the years 2003, 2011 and 2015 for selected risk factors. Air pollution was estimated in 2015 only and high blood plasma glucose levels in 2011 and 2015 only, due to lack of suitable data.
For risk factors where data was available over time, the risk factors contributed 37% of the total burden in Australia in 2003 compared with 36% in 2015. This decrease demonstrates a small improvement in the amount of health loss attributable to modifiable risk factors.
Tobacco use, overweight & obesity, all dietary risks and high blood pressure were consistently the leading 4 risk factors in the years 2003, 2011 and 2015. High cholesterol decreased from the 5th highest risk factor in 2003 to the 7th highest in 2015, whereas the reverse was seen in overweight & obesity rankings— moving from the 4th highest risk factor in 2003 to the 2nd highest risk factor in 2015.
There were decreases between 2003 and 2015 in the age-standardised rate of burden attributable to risk factors for high cholesterol by 49%, for high blood pressure by 41%, for dietary risks by 34% and for tobacco use by 24%. Decreases in burden from cardiovascular diseases linked to these risk factors contributed to the decrease in rate of attributable burden.
In males, illicit drug use and occupational exposures & hazards ranked higher (8th and 9th respectively in 2015) compared to females (not in the 10 leading risk factors in 2015).
When looking at non-fatal burden, overweight & obesity and tobacco use were consistently the leading 2 risk factors in the years 2003, 2011 and 2015. High blood glucose ranked 3rd in the years 2011 and 2015, 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 (3rd, 7th and 8th respectively in 2015) compared with females. Intimate partner violence ranked 6th for non-fatal burden in 2015, 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, dietary risks and high blood pressure consistently contributed the most in Australia across all years, for both males and females.