Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Heart, stroke and vascular disease—Australian facts, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 29 January 2023.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Heart, stroke and vascular disease—Australian facts. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-diseases/hsvd-facts
Heart, stroke and vascular disease—Australian facts. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 29 September 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-diseases/hsvd-facts
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Heart, stroke and vascular disease—Australian facts [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2021 [cited 2023 Jan. 29]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-diseases/hsvd-facts
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2021, Heart, stroke and vascular disease—Australian facts, viewed 29 January 2023, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-diseases/hsvd-facts
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Stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain either suddenly becomes blocked (ischaemic stroke) or ruptures and begins to bleed (haemorrhagic stroke).
Either may result in part of the brain dying, leading to impairment that can affect a range of activities such as speaking, thinking, movement and communication. Stroke is often fatal.
A condition related to stroke is transient ischaemic attack (TIA). TIA occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked temporarily. The signs are the same as for a stroke, but they disappear within a short time, and there is no evidence of damage on brain imaging. TIA is an important predictor of stroke.
Risk factors for stroke include tobacco smoking, high blood pressure, abnormal blood lipids, TIA, atrial fibrillation, diabetes and other heart disease.
Stroke is sometimes referred to as cerebrovascular disease, although cerebrovascular disease is a broader category of diseases which include stroke and other disorders of the blood vessels supplying the brain or its covering membranes. Stroke is the most common form of cerebrovascular disease.
In 2018, an estimated 387,000 Australians aged 15 and over (1.3% of the population) had experienced a stroke at some time in their lives, based on self-reported data from the ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (ABS 2019).
After adjusting for age, the prevalence of stroke was:
The bar chart shows the prevalence of self-reported stroke by age group in 2018. Rates were highest among men and women aged 85 and over (16.0% and 12.3%).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
Limited national information on the occurrence of stroke is available for the Indigenous population, with under-identification in hospital and death data and small case numbers often hampering accurate estimates (Katzenellenbogen et al. 2011). However, studies in a number of jurisdictions have found rates to be higher than for the non-Indigenous population, including:
Based on the 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, the age-standardised prevalence of stroke among people aged 15 and over living in the lowest socioeconomic areas (1.8%) was more than twice as high than for those than in the highest areas (0.8%).
Based on the 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, for both men and women, there were no statistically significant differences in the age-standardised prevalence of stroke across remoteness areas (Figure 2).
The horizontal bar chart shows that the prevalence of self-reported stroke in 2017–18 was higher among people living in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, but did not vary significantly by remoteness areas.
There are no national data sources on the annual number of strokes. However, a related measure can be used as an estimate—the number of stroke events—developed by the AIHW using unlinked hospital and deaths data.
The number of stroke events includes new and recurrent strokes.
In 2018, there were an estimated 38,600 stroke events in Australia—more than 100 every day. The rate of stroke events was 154 per 100,000 population.
In 2018, there were an estimated 20,200 stroke events among males and 18,400 among females.
Rates of stroke events:
The bar chart shows the prevalence of stroke events by age group in 2018. Rates were highest among men and women aged 85 and over (2,099 and 2,173 per 100,000 population).
The rate of stroke events fell by one quarter (25%) between 2001 and 2018, from 169 to 127 events per 100,000 population.
The decline in rates was slightly greater for females (26%) than males (24%) (Figure 4). Since 2013, however, stroke event rates have levelled for both males and females.
The line chart shows the decline in age-standardised rates of stroke events between 2001 and 2018, from 193 to 147 per 100,000 population for males and 148 to 109 for females.
Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a condition related to stroke. It is a temporary blockage of the blood supply to the brain, often lasting only a few minutes, and producing stroke-like symptoms that disappear within a short time.
Unlike stroke, there is no permanent damage to the brain, with no remaining symptoms, and no evidence of damage on brain imaging. TIA is, however, an important predictor of stroke—after a TIA, the risk of stroke is much higher (Stroke Foundation 2021).
One quarter (4,050 or 25%) of TIA admissions were on a same-day basis. The average length of stay in hospital for all TIA admissions was 2.9 days.
There were around 67,700 hospitalisations where stroke was recorded as the principal diagnosis in 2018–19.
This represents 0.6% of all hospitalisations, and 11% of all cardiovascular disease (CVD) hospitalisations in Australia.
Of these, 39,600 (58%) required acute care, and 28,100 (42%) were for rehabilitation and other types of care.
In 2018–19, where stroke was recorded as the principal diagnosis, hospitalisation rates:
The bar chart shows stroke hospitalisation rates by age groups in 2018–19. Rates were highest among men and women aged 85 and over (2,877 and 2,554 per 100,000 population).
The line chart shows the decline in age-standardised rates of acute care stroke hospitalisations between 2000–01 and 2018–19, from 197 to 156 per 100,000 population for males, and from 145 to 108 for females.
In 2018–19, there were around 1,500 hospitalisations with a principal diagnosis of stroke among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
After adjusting for differences in the age structure of the populations:
In 2018–19, age-standardised stroke hospitalisation rates for people living in the lowest and highest socioeconomic areas were similar—235 and 217 per 100,000 population (Figure 7).
In 2018–19, age-standardised stroke hospitalisation rates for people living in Remote and very remote areas were around 10% higher than for people living in Major cities (248 and 226 hospitalisations per 100,000 population) (Figure 7).
The horizontal bar chart shows that stroke hospitalisation rates in 2018–19 were higher among Indigenous Australians and people living in Remote and very remote areas, but did not differ significantly by socioeconomic area.
In 2019, stroke was the underlying cause of 8,400 deaths (5.0% of all deaths and 20% of CVD deaths).
Stroke was one of the 5 leading causes of death in Australia—on average, 23 Australians died of stroke each day in 2019.
In 2019, stroke death rates:
The bar chart shows stroke death rates by age groups in 2019. Rates were highest among men and women aged 85 and over (739 and 969 per 100,000 population).
The number and rate of stroke deaths declined substantially between 1980 and 2019:
Falling stroke death rates have been driven by a number of factors, including improvements in risk factors such as lower rates of tobacco smoking, an increased use of blood pressure–lowering drugs, treatment to prevent blood clots, access to stroke units in hospitals and other advances in medical care (AIHW 2013).
The line chart shows the decline in age-standardised coronary heart disease death rates between 1980 and 2019, from 108 to 24 per 100,000 population for males and from 99 to 25 for females.
In 2017–2019, the stroke death rate was 1.3 times as high for people living in the lowest socioeconomic areas compared with those living in the highest socioeconomic areas (age-standardised rates of 29 and 22 per 100,000 population).
The difference was similar for males (1.4 times as high) and females (1.3 times as high) (Figure 10).
In 2017–2019, the stroke death rate in Remote and very remote areas was 1.1 times as high as in Major cities (age-standardised rates of 28 and 25 per 100,000 population).
The female rate in Remote and very remote areas was 1.1 times as high as in Major cities (28 and 24 deaths per 100,000 population), as was the male rate (26 and 24 deaths per 100,000 population) (Figure 10).
The horizontal bar chart shows that stroke death rates in 2017–2019 were higher among Indigenous Australians and people living in the lowest socioeconomic areas, but did not differ significantly by remoteness area.
ABS 2019. 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, Customised data report.
AIHW 2013. Stroke and its management in Australia: an update. Cat. no. CVD 61. Canberra: AIHW.
Balabanski AH, Newbury J, Leyden JM, Arima H, Anderson CS, Castle S et al. 2018. Excess stroke incidence in young Aboriginal people in South Australia: pooled results from two population-based studies. International Journal of Stroke 13: 811–4.
Katzenellenbogen JM, Vos T, Somerford P, Begg S, Semmens JB, Codde JP 2011. Burden of stroke in Indigenous Western Australians: a study using data linkage. Stroke 42: 1515–21.
Stroke Foundation 2021. Transient ischaemic attack (TIA). Viewed 3 February 2021,
You J, Condon JR, Zhao Y, Guthridge SL 2015. Stroke incidence and case-fatality among Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in the Northern Territory of Australia, 1999–2011. International Journal of Stroke 10: 716–22.
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