Comparing health data between countries supports policy planning and decision-making and enables international health-related research and analysis.

The interactive visualisation on this page allows you to compare data from 38 Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) member countries across a range of health and health care indicators, with a focus on Australia’s international performance.

This page aims to provide a high-level comparison of international health data (see Figure 1 below for a visual overview). For a detailed focus of health indicators at a national level, see Australia's Health Performance Framework indicators.

All data reported on this page are derived from OECD Health Statistics 2021 unless otherwise noted. The latest year of data available for some countries on these indicators at the time of this report was 2020 (or latest available year). In circumstances where none of the 38 member countries had available data for 2020, the latest reporting period for any of the member countries was used as the reference year (for example, 2012 for cancer incidence).

Some of the data presented in this report precedes the COVID-19 pandemic. For a brief overview of available data, please go to the Health data and COVID-19 section of this report.

For further detail on definitions, sources, notes, indicators, and data availability, please refer to the OECD website.

How does Australia’s health compare with other OECD countries?

Click through the categories at the top of the visualisation to change the set of indicators.

Figure 1: How does Australia compare?

This figure compares various health indicators such as life expectancy, health risk factors and health insurance across OECD countries in 2020 or nearest year. Australia was ranked higher than the OECD average for life expectancy at birth, and had fewer deaths due to diseases of the circulatory system and infant mortality.

Life expectancy, mortality and causes of death

In 2020 (or based on the latest year of data):

  • Australia’s life expectancy at birth was 83.0 years – above the OECD average of 80.6 years, and the sixth highest among OECD countries. The highest life expectancy was in Japan, where people could expect to live 84.4 years at birth.
  • Australia’s infant mortality rate (with no minimum threshold of gestation period or birthweight) was 3.3 deaths per 1,000 live births – below the OECD average of 4.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. Iceland experienced the lowest rate of infant mortality (1.1 deaths per 1,000 live births).

In 2019 (or based on the latest year of data):

  • The most common disease group for causes of death among Australians was neoplasms, with malignant neoplasms (cancer) at 180.2 deaths per 100,000 population (age-standardised to the 2010 OECD population). This was followed by diseases of the circulatory system at 159.4 deaths per 100,000 population (age-standardised to the 2010 OECD population). These were also the most common causes of death across OECD countries.

Health status and morbidity

In 2020 (or based on the latest year of data):

  • Among those aged 15 and over, Canadians were most likely to perceive their health as ‘good/very good’ (89%), followed by those living in the United States (88%), New Zealand (87%) and Australia (85%). Those living in Korea (34%) and Japan (37%) were least likely to rate their health as ‘good/very good’.
  • Among OECD countries, Colombia, Greece, and Japan had the highest proportion of low birthweight babies, at 9.4% of total live births. The proportion of low birthweight babies in Australia was 6.7%, slightly higher than the OECD average, 6.5% of total live births.

In 2012 (or based on the latest year of data):

  • Australia had the second highest rate of cancer (all malignant neoplasms (C00-C97)) among OECD countries (323 cases per 100,000 population), while Denmark had the highest rate (338 per 100,000 population).
  • Relatively high cancer incidence rates for Australia may be due in part to Australia’s high-quality and virtually complete cancer incidence data. Across OECD countries, the quality and completeness of cancer registry data may vary, in turn affecting the cancer incidence rates provided to the OECD and presented here.

Long-term care

In 2020 (or based on the latest year of data):

  • The number of beds in Australia’s residential long-term care facilities per 1,000 population aged 65 and over (51.9 per 1,000) ranked equal eighth highest, out of the 33 countries with available data. This was higher than the OECD average of 42.2 per 1,000.
  • Australia had the fourth highest proportion (5.9%) of long-term care recipients in institutions (other than hospitals) for the population aged 65 and over, out of the 30 countries with available data. This was higher than the OECD average of 4.0%.
  • Australia had the 10th highest proportion (6.2%) of formal long-term care workers for the population aged 65 and over, out of the 22 countries with available data. This was higher than the OECD average of 5.8%.

It should be noted that definitions of long-term care varies between countries and this may impact the ranking of Australia compared to other OECD countries.

Health risk factors

In 2020 (or based on the latest year of data):

  • Australia had the eighth lowest proportion of daily smokers among people aged 15 and over (11.2%), with Turkey ranking highest at 28%.
  • Australia was above the OECD average for litres per capita of pure alcohol consumed by people aged 15 and over, at 9.5 litres compared with 8.7 litres per capita. The highest amount of alcohol consumed was in Latvia (12.9 litres per capita), while the lowest was in Turkey (1.3 litres per capita).
  • Australia had the eighth highest proportion of people aged 15 and over who are overweight and obese (65%), out of the 22 countries that reported measured height and weight data. This was higher than the OECD average of 59%.

Pharmaceutical market

In 2020 (or based on the latest year of data):

  • Total pharmaceutical sales per capita ($US purchasing power parity) were highest in Greece, at $US1,084. Australia’s pharmaceutical sales were equivalent to $US416 per capita, lower than the OECD average ($US561 per capita).

Remuneration of health professionals

In 2020 (or based on the latest year of data):

  • Self-employed general practitioners in Australia had the fourth lowest annual income among 15 OECD countries, at around $US94,511 (adjusted for purchasing power parity).
  • For self-employed specialists, the annual income in Australia was fifth lowest among 12 OECD countries, at around $US197,505 per year (adjusted for purchasing power parity).
  • Salaried hospital nurses in Australia earned the sixth highest annual income among 35 OECD countries, at around $US67,949 (adjusted for purchasing power parity).

It should be noted that average salaries for healthcare professionals are converted to USD Purchasing Power Parities (PPPs) for private consumption to bring them in line with average earnings calculations across the OECD. Average salaries derived from the OECD Health Statistics 2021 (as is presented above) cannot be compared with data from previous versions.

Health insurance

In 2020 (or based on the latest year of data):

  • Australia was among 23 OECD countries in which 100% of the population were covered by public or primary private health insurance. Mexico ranked lowest for this indicator, with 72% of its population covered by public or private health insurance.
  • The proportion of the total population covered by government or social health insurance for health care across countries ranged from 100% (in Australia and others) to 37% in the United States – well below the OECD average of 96%.
  • Across 30 OECD countries with available data, the proportion of the total population covered by private health insurance (all types) was highest in Belgium, at 98%. The proportion of the population covered by private health insurance (all types) in Australia was above the OECD average, at 53% (OECD average 35%).

Waiting times for elective surgery

In 2020 (or based on the latest year of data), there were procedures where the median waiting time in Australia from specialist assessment to treatment was different than the OECD average. These included:

  • coronary bypass (18 days), below the OECD average of 26 days
  • hysterectomy (63 days), above the OECD average of 58 days.

The median waiting time in Australia from specialist assessment to treatment for hip replacement was similar to the OECD average (120 and 119 days, respectively).

Health data and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to substantial disruption worldwide. Throughout various stages of the virus, many countries around the world introduced restrictions (such as travel bans and strong physical distancing policies) to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Some of the data presented in this report precedes the COVID-19 pandemic. However, data since the start of the pandemic suggests that Australia performed well across OECD countries on the direct impacts of COVID-19 on health in the early stages of the pandemic.

For example, from January 2020 to early October 2021, Australia had reported:

  • the second lowest prevalence of COVID-19 infections per 100,000 population
  • the third lowest number of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 deaths per million population, among OECD member countries (OECD 2021).

Additionally, Australia was one of 5 OECD member countries that reported very low excess mortality between January 2020 and June 2021 (OECD 2021).

However, the number of COVID-19 cases in Australia increased in early 2022, following the introduction of the omicron variant in December 2021. By 30 April 2022, the cumulative incidence of COVID-19 was 231,000 cases per million people (Ritchie et al. 2022).

It should be noted that the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are still unfolding internationally, and there is limited data currently available to compare how Australia performed against other OECD countries in terms of the indirect effects of COVID-19 (such as health service performance) and the longer-term impacts on health.

For an Australian-specific overview of direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19, see, ‘Chapter 1 The impact of a new disease: COVID-19 from 2020, 2021 and into 2022’ and ‘Chapter 2 Changes in the health of Australians during the COVID-19 period’ in Australia’s health 2022: data insights.

Where do I go for more information?

For more information on international comparisons of health data, see:

Visit International comparisons for more on this topic.

References

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) (2021) ‘Chapter 2: The health impact of COVID-19’, in Health at a glance 2021: OECD indicators, OECD, doi:10.1787/ae3016b9-en.

Ritchie H, Mathieu E, Rod├ęs-Guirao L, Appel C, Giattino C, Ortiz-Ospina E, Hasell J, Macdonald B, Dattani S and Roser M (2022) ‘Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19)’, Our World in Data, accessed 1 May 2022. 

Data

All data (unless otherwise flagged) have been sourced from the OECD Health Statistics 2021 database and were extracted in July 2021.

Archived report

International health data comparisons, 2020 (4.5MB PDF)