Burden of disease

Burden of disease quantifies the health impact of disease on a population in a given year—both from dying early and from living with disease and injury. The summary measure ‘disability-adjusted life years’ (or DALY) measures the years of healthy life lost from death and illness.

In 2015, females experienced a smaller share of the total disease burden (47%) than males (53%). A larger proportion of the total disease burden for females was caused by living with disease. For males, the greatest proportion of total burden was caused by premature death (AIHW 2019a).

The distribution of overall burden between the sexes varied by disease group. Compared with males, females experience a greater proportion of the total burden from (AIHW 2019a):

  • blood and metabolic disorders (59%)
  • neurological conditions (58%)
  • musculoskeletal conditions (55%).

Nearly half (44%) of the total burden of disease for females is from cancer, musculoskeletal conditions, and cardiovascular disease.

After cancer, the ranking of disease groups contributing to total burden of disease differed for females and males. For females, musculoskeletal conditions ranked second, followed by mental and substance use disorders, cardiovascular diseases and neurological conditions (AIHW 2019a).

After coronary heart disease, the specific diseases responsible for the most total burden among males and females differed. Among females, dementia ranked second, followed by back pain and problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and anxiety disorders (Table 1).

For more information see Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2015

Table 1: Leading 10 causes of total disease burden (DALY), by disease, females, 2015

Disease

DALY

Proportion (%)

Coronary heart disease

111,999

5.0

Dementia

110,615

5.0

Back pain and problems

98,356

4.4

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

91,670

4.1

Anxiety disorders

90,468

4.1

Depressive disorders

78,290

3.5

Osteoarthritis

74,902

3.4

Breast cancer

69,690

3.1

Asthma

66,796

3.0

Lung cancer

65,635

2.9

(a) DALY = Disability Adjusted Life-Year.
Chart: AIHW. Source: AIHW 2019a.