In the 2021 Census of Population and Housing more than 7 million people living in Australia indicated they were born overseas and 6 million reported speaking a language other than English. For the first time, the Census collected information on selected long-term health conditions experienced by the Australian population.
This web report explores the prevalence of chronic health conditions by country of birth, time since arrival, main language used at home and English proficiency. It also presents data for these conditions by combinations of country of birth and time since arrival, language used at home and English proficiency and time since arrival and English proficiency.
For some conditions – asthma, cancer, mental health and lung conditions – all countries of birth had a similar or lower age-standardised prevalence than for the Australian-born population. For dementia, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease there were many countries of birth with a higher prevalence than for the Australian-born population, particularly for people born in countries from regions such as Polynesia, South Asia and the Middle East. For example, Bangladesh-born Australians had the highest prevalence of both diabetes and heart disease (12% and 4.6%, respectively). Kidney disease was highest in people born in Polynesian countries such as Tonga (1.9%) and Samoa (1.5%).
For main languages use at home, the findings were similar to those for country of birth. For example, people who spoke Tongan or Māori (Cook Island) had the highest prevalence of diabetes and kidney disease, respectively.
The year of arrival in Australia and level of English proficiency were interacting factors that related to the prevalence of many long-term health conditions. A higher age-standardised prevalence of several long-term health conditions was observed among people who first arrived in Australia a greater number of years ago, particularly for arthritis, asthma, mental health and lung conditions. This finding was strongest for people who still had low English proficiency and had first arrived in Australia more than 10 years ago.
The prevalence of chronic health conditions increased with time since arrival across all conditions for most countries of birth. However, Iraq had a higher prevalence among more recent arrivals for multiple conditions, including dementia, heart disease and kidney disease. A lower English proficiency among people who spoke Arabic (the most common language spoken in Iraq) was also related to a higher prevalence of long-term health conditions.
The patterns observed are likely to reflect the diverse cultures, languages, migration trajectories, social and economic circumstances among culturally and linguistically diverse people in Australia.