Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) The health of Australia’s females, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 04 February 2023.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). The health of Australia’s females. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/men-women/female-health
The health of Australia’s females. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 10 December 2019, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/men-women/female-health
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The health of Australia’s females [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019 [cited 2023 Feb. 4]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/men-women/female-health
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, The health of Australia’s females, viewed 4 February 2023, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/men-women/female-health
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The term ‘chronic condition’ encompasses a broad range of chronic and complex health conditions across the spectrum of illness. Both communicable and non-communicable diseases can become chronic, however, the monitoring of chronic conditions in developed countries focuses primarily on non-communicable disease. According to the National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions (Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council 2017), chronic conditions:
Chronic conditions pose significant health problems and have a range of potential impacts on individual circumstances. Chronic conditions also have a significant impact on the health sector. Data in this section focus on 10 common chronic conditions including arthritis, asthma, back problems, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, heart, stroke and vascular disease, chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis and mental health conditions.
Data from the 2017–18 National Health Survey (NHS) provide an estimate of the prevalence of a number of chronic conditions among the Australian population. This survey data is self-reported and is therefore likely to under-report the true prevalence of chronic conditions.
1 in 2
Australian females have 1 or more of the 10 selected common chronic conditions
According to 2017–18 data, 1 in 2 (49%) Australian females are estimated to have one or more of the 10 selected common chronic conditions. Of these females, 26% have one condition, 13% have two, and 10% have three or more.
The self-reported prevalence of these chronic conditions varies with age (ABS 2018a):
Mental and behavioural problems
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(c)
Heart, stroke and vascular disease(d)
Chronic kidney disease
Source: ABS 2018a, ABS 2019. See Table S10 for footnotes.
For more detailed information on chronic conditions, see Chronic conditions.
Cancer describes a diverse group of several hundred diseases in which some of the body’s cells become abnormal and begin to multiply out of control. Some cancers are easily diagnosed and treated, others are harder to diagnose and treat, and most can be fatal. Cancers are named by the type of cell involved or the location in the body where the disease begins.
The primary source of national cancer incidence data is the Australian Cancer Database—a data collection of all primary, malignant cancers diagnosed in Australia since 1982.
estimated new cases of breast cancer, the most common cancer among females, will be diagnosed in 2020
In 2020, it is estimated that females will account for 46% of all new cancer cases (68,535 cases). The risk for Australian females being diagnosed with cancer before their 85th birthday is 1 in 2. The most common cancer diagnosis in females is breast cancer, followed by colorectal cancer, melanoma of the skin, and lung cancer (AIHW 2018).
The most common cancer diagnosis in females varies by age. For example, in 2019, leukaemia, colorectal cancer, lymphoma, thyroid cancer and melanoma of the skin were the most common cancers in females under 30 and breast cancer was the most common cancer for women aged over 30 (AIHW 2018).
Chart: AIHW. Source: AIHW 2018 (see Table S11 for footnotes).
Endometriosis is a chronic condition that can be painful, affect fertility and lead to reduced participation in school, work and sporting activities. Around 1 in 9 women born in 1973–78 were estimated to have been diagnosed with endometriosis by age 40–44. Among women born in 1989–95, around 1 in 15 (6.6%) women were estimated to have been diagnosed with endometriosis by age 25–29 (AIHW 2019b).
In 2016–17, there were around 34,200 endometriosis-related hospitalisations (a rate of 281 hospitalisations per 100,000 females). Around half of these (52%) had endometriosis as the principal diagnosis. Nearly 4 in 5 (79%) endometriosis-related hospitalisations were among females aged 15–44 years, which are generally regarded as a woman’s reproductive years. This accounts for around 15 out of every 1,000 hospitalisations among females aged 15–44 (AIHW 2019b).
Rates of endometriosis-related hospitalisations varied by population group, after adjusting for age (AIHW 2019b):
The reasons for these differences are not known. They could reflect potential variations in access to health services or differences in health-seeking behaviour between population groups, rather than a difference in disease prevalence.
Endometriosis-related hospitalisations were more likely than all hospitalisations for females to be partly or fully funded by private health insurance (57% compared with 43%). They were also more likely than all hospitalisations for females to be in private hospitals (62% compared with 42%). These differences are likely related to the generally greater numbers of endometriosis-related hospitalisations among females living in higher socioeconomic areas.
For more information see Endometriosis in Australia: prevalence and hospitalisations.
The World Health Organization defines mental health as ‘a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.’ Poor mental health may adversely affect any or all of these areas and has consequences for an individual, their family and society. Mental and substance use disorders are among the leading causes of disease burden for Australian women (AIHW 2019a).
More than 2 in 5
Australian women have experienced a mental health problem in their lifetime.
The most recent comprehensive national survey, the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, indicated that more than 2 in 5 (43%) females aged 16–85 had experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime (ABS 2008). The ABS has plans to begin conducting the Intergenerational Health & Mental Health Study from 2020.
More recently, the 2017–18 National Health Survey (NHS) collected data on self-reported mental health issues in Australia. The NHS showed that (ABS 2018a):
Other sources of administrative data show that, in 2017–18, more than 2.4 million Australian females (20%) received a mental health-related prescription (AIHW 2019g).
The 2010 Survey of High Impact Psychosis estimated that the 12-month prevalence of females aged 18–64 with a psychotic disorder in contact with public specialised mental health services in Australia to be 24,674 (3.5 cases per 1,000 persons) (Morgan et al. 2011).
The 2013–14 Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing indicated that just over 1 in 10 (11.5%) girls aged 4–17 had experienced a mental disorder in the previous 12 months (Lawrence et al. 2015).
For more information see Mental health services.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2008. National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. ABS cat. no. 4326.0. Canberra: ABS.
ABS 2018a. National Health Survey: First results 2017–18. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.
ABS 2018b. Life Tables for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2015–2017. ABS cat. no. 3302.0.55.003. Canberra: ABS.
ABS 2019. Microdata: National Health Survey, 2017–18, detailed microdata, DataLab. ABS cat no. 4324.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS. Findings based on AIHW analysis of ABS microdata.
Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council 2017. National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions. Canberra: Australian Government.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2018 Cancer Data in Australia. Canberra: AIHW. <https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/cancer-data-in-australia/>.
AIHW 2019a. Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2015. Australian Burden of Disease series no.19. Cat. no. BOD 22. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW 2019b. Endometriosis in Australia: prevalence and hospitalisations. Cat. no. PHE 247. Canberra: AIHW
AIHW 2019c. Australia’s mothers and babies data visualisations. Cat. no. PER 101. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW 2019d. Australia’s mother and babies 2017—in brief. Perinatal series no. 35. Cat. no. PER 100. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW 2019e. Deaths in Australia. Cat. no. PHE 229. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW 2019f. Mortality Over Regions and Time (MORT) books. Cat. no. PHE 229.
AIHW 2019g. Mental health services in Australia: in brief 2019. Cat.no. HSE 228. Canberra: AIHW.
Bywood PT, Raven M & Erny–Albrecht K 2015. Improving health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers, babies and young children: a literature review. Adelaide: Primary Health Care Research & Information Service.
Kirby Institute 2018. HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: annual Surveillance report 2018. Sydney: Kirby Institute.
Lawrence D, Johnson S, Hafekost J, Boterhoven De Haan K, Sawyer M, Ainley J, Zubrick SR (2015) The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents. Report on the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Department of Health, Canberra
Morgan VA, Waterreus A, Carr V, Castle D, Cohen M & Harvey C et al 2011. People living with psychotic illness 2010. Report on the second Australian national survey. Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing: Canberra
OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) 2019. Life expectancy at birth (indicator). doi: 10.1787/27e0fc9d-en. Viewed 4 September 2019.
Smith AM, Lyons A, Ferris JA, Richters J, Pitts MK, Shelley JM et al. 2012. Incidence and persistence/recurrence of women’s sexual difficulties: findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Health and Relationships. Journal of Sex and Martial Therapy 38(4): 378-39.
WHO (World Health Organization) 2015. State of inequality: reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health. Geneva: WHO. Viewed 3 November 2015.
WHO 2019a. Sexual and reproductive health: defining sexual health. Geneva: WHO. Viewed 11 July 2019.
WHO 2019b. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Key facts. Geneva: WHO. Viewed 25 March 2019.
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