How healthy are Australia’s males?

A person’s health status is their overall level of health, and can be measured through self-assessed health status; presence of chronic disease and comorbidities; mental health; sexual heath; life expectancy; and level of disability.

Self-assessed health status

Self-assessed health status is a general measure of health status, combining physical, social, emotional and mental health and wellbeing.

Nearly 3 in 5

Australian males rated their health as excellent or very good

In 2014–15, 55% of males (aged 15+) rated their health as excellent or very good (ABS 2015).

The proportion of males rating their health as excellent or very good varied by age-group: 64% of males aged 15–34 rated their health as excellent or very good, compared with 32% of men aged 75 years and over.

Chronic disease, comorbidity and burden of disease

Chronic disease

The term chronic disease applies to a group of diseases that tend to be long-lasting and have persistent effects. Chronic diseases have a range of potential impacts on a person's individual circumstances, including quality of life, as well as broader social and economic effects. Chronic diseases also have a significant impact on the health sector.

Self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2014–15 National Health Survey (NHS) provides an estimate of the prevalence of chronic disease among the Australian population. Chronic disease data is collected for arthritis, asthma, back problems, cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), CVD (cardiovascular disease), diabetes, and mental health conditions. These chronic diseases were selected for reporting because they are common, pose significant health problems, have been the focus of recent AIHW surveillance efforts, and action can be taken to prevent their occurrence. This survey data is self-reported and is therefore likely to under-report the true prevalence of chronic disease. However, using this data enables us to look at the comorbidity of chronic diseases across the Australian population, which is not possible using separate data sources. For more information on data quality visit Data sources.


1 in 2

Australian males have a chronic disease

In 2014–15, 48% of males reported having one or more of the 8 selected chronic diseases (arthritis, asthma, back problems, cancer, cardiovascular disease, COPD, diabetes and mental and behavioural problems) (ABS 2015).

Table 1: Selected chronic diseases reported by males, all ages, 2014–15



Per cent

CVD (cardiovascular disease)



Back problems



Mental and behavioural problems












COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)






Source: ABS 2015

Note: This survey data is self-reported and likely under-reports the true prevalence of chronic diseases. For more information on data quality visit Data sources.

The prevalence of these chronic diseases varies with age:

  • 86% of men aged 65 and over have a chronic disease, compared with 33% of males aged under 45.


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 all 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 prostate cancer will be diagnosed in 2017, the most common cancer among males

In 2017, it is estimated males will account for 54% of all new cancer cases (72,169 cases) (AIHW 2017a).  The risk for Australian males of being diagnosed with cancer before their 85th birthday is 1 in 2 (see Figure 4 below). The most common cancer diagnosis in males is prostate cancer, followed by colorectal cancer, melanoma of the skin, and lung cancer.

Figure 4: Estimated age-specific incidence and mortality rate from all cancers, males, 2017

This line graph shows a relatively low incidence of cancer among younger age-groups, with incidence gradually increasing between ages 25–29 and 50–54, and then increasing sharply between ages 50–54 and 85 and over. The cancer mortality line shows that the age-specific rate of cancer mortality is relatively low until age 40–44, when it then begins to increase exponentially in each successive age group to age 85+.

Source: AIHW 2017a (Table S4).

Mental health

The World Health Organisation 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.

Nearly 1 in 2

Australian males have experienced a mental health problem

In 2007, more than 3.8 million (48%) males aged 16–85 had experienced a mental health disorder in their lifetime (ABS 2008).

18% of males aged 16–85 experienced symptoms of a mental health disorder in the previous 12 months.

Chronic disease comorbidities

Some people have more than one chronic disease or health problem at the same time. This is referred to as a comorbidity. Having comorbid chronic conditions can have important implications for a person’s health outcomes, quality of life and treatment choices.

Comorbidity data are presented for the following eight chronic diseases because they are common, pose significant health problems, have been the focus of recent AIHW surveillance efforts, and action can be taken to prevent their occurrence:

  • arthritis
  • asthma
  • back problems
  • cancer
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • CVD (cardiovascular disease)
  • diabetes
  • mental health conditions.

In 2014–15, 48% of all Australian males had one or more of these chronic conditions: 27% had one, 13% had two, and 8.5% had three or more. Chronic disease comorbidity was lower for males than females (21% of all males had two or more chronic conditions compared with 25% for females) (ABS 2015).

Figure 5: Number of chronic conditions, males, 2014–15

This horizontal bar chart shows the number of chronic conditions reported by males in 2014–15. 52%25 of men reported having none of the selected chronic conditions, 27%25 of men reported having one of the selected chronic conditions, 13%25 reported having two of the selected chronic conditions, and 9%25 reported having three or more of the selected chronic conditions.

Note: Based on the selected chronic conditions; arthritis, asthma, back pain and problems, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and mental health conditions.

Source: ABS 2015 (Table S5).

The most common comorbidities in males were:

  • 717,300 males reported CVD and arthritis (6.3% of all males)
  • 580,100 males reported CVD and back problems (5.1%)
  • 509,300 males reported mental and behavioural problems and back problems (4.5%).

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 2011, males experienced a greater share of the total disease burden (54%) than females (46%) (AIHW 2016). The distribution of overall burden between the sexes varied by disease group. Compared with females, males experienced almost three-quarters (72%) of the total burden from injuries and a greater proportion of the total burden from cardiovascular diseases (59%). Nearly half (47%) of the burden of disease in males is from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and mental & substance use disorders.

After cancer, the ranking of disease groups contributing to total burden of disease differed for males and females. For males, cardiovascular diseases ranked second, followed by mental & substance use disorders, injuries, and musculoskeletal conditions (see Table 2). For females, musculoskeletal conditions ranked second, followed by cardiovascular diseases, and mental & substance use disorders (AIHW 2016).

For more information visit Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2011.

Table 2: Leading causes of burden, DALY and proportions, by disease group, males, 2011

Disease group


Proportion (%)







Mental & substance use disorders
























DALY = Disability Adjusted Life-Year.

Source: AIHW 2016

Sexual health

Sexual health includes the prevalence of sexual problems and sexually transmissible infection rates.

Over 1 in 2

Australian men have experienced a sexual difficulty

More than half (54%) of men aged 18–55 years had experienced some sexual difficulty lasting at least 3 months in the last 12 months: 37% reported ‘reaching climax too quickly’ and 17% ‘lacked interest in having sex’ (Schlichthorst, Sanci & Hocking 2016).

‘Reaching climax too quickly’ was the most common issue across all age groups (between 32% and 39%). Other types of sexual difficulty differed by age: ‘did not reach climax or took a long time’ was the next most common issue in 18–24 year old men, while ‘lacking interest in having sex’ was most common among men of other age groups (25–34, 35–44 and 45–55).

More information on male reproductive health can be found at Andrology Australia.

Table 3: Sexual difficulty among men, by age group, 2013–14

Age group (years)

Sexual difficulty (a)

Per cent (b)


Reached climax too quickly


Did not reach climax or took a long time


Lacked interest in having sex


At least one sexual difficulty over past 12 months



Reached climax too quickly


Lacked interest in having sex


Felt anxious during sex


At least one sexual difficulty over past 12 months



Reached climax too quickly


Lacked interest in having sex


Did not reach climax or took a long time


At least one sexual difficulty over past 12 months



Reached climax too quickly


Lacked interest in having sex


Had trouble getting or keeping an erection


At least one sexual difficulty over past 12 months


  1. Sexual difficulty experienced for at least three months in the 12 months before the study.
  2. Proportion of males in each age group. Note that males may report more than one sexual difficulty.

Source: Schlichthorst et al. 2016

Life expectancy and mortality

Life expectancy is expressed as either the number of years a newborn baby is expected to live, or the expected years of life remaining for a person at a given age, and is estimated from the death rates in a population.  

This bar chart shows that life expectancy for Australian males born in 2017 is 80.5 years. This is 33 years longer than the life expectancy of Australian males born in 1890 (47.2 years).

Australian males born in 2015–17 can expect to live 33 years longer than males born in 1881–1890 did

Life expectancy changes over time, and differs between population groups (ABS 2018a; ABS 2018b):

  • males born in Australia in 2015–2017 can expect to live to the age of 80.5 years on average (an increase of 1.5 years in the past 10 years).
  • for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males born in 2015–2017, life expectancy was estimated to be 71.6 years (an increase of 2.5 years since the last ABS estimates of Indigenous life expectancy in 2010–2012). While the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous male life expectancy narrowed by 2 years from 2010–2012 to 2015–2017, life expectancy for Indigenous males is 8.6 years less than for non-Indigenous males (80.2 years).
  • International comparisons of life expectancy at birth projected for males in 2015–2020 indicate that Australian males have the 3rd highest life expectancy in the world (81.3 years). Switzerland is ranked 1st with 81.6 years.

Disability-free life expectancies

Life and health expectancies at age 65 are used for monitoring healthy ageing. In 2013–15, life expectancy for men aged 65 (that is, the number of additional years a person aged 65 could expect to live) was just under 20 years (AIHW 2017b). Men aged 65 in 2015 could expect to live an additional 9 years free of disability and around 10 years with some level of disability, including 3 years with severe or profound core activity limitation. This equates to these men living 53% of their remaining life with disability, including 17% with severe or profound core activity limitation (AIHW 2017b).


Mortality data, such as premature deaths and potentially avoidable deaths, can help in understanding death and the fatal burden of disease in the population at a point in time.

Mortality rates vary between population groups. In 2016 (AIHW 2018b):

  • Males accounted for 62% of premature deaths.
  • Males in Very remote areas had a higher percentage of potentially avoidable deaths, with 64% of premature deaths being potentially avoidable, compared to 50% in Major cities.
  • The median age at death for males decreased with increasing remoteness: from 79 in Major cities to 68 in Very remote areas.
  • The median age at death for males also decreased with decreasing socioeconomic group: from 81 in the highest socioeconomic areas to 77 in the lowest socioeconomic areas.

Causes of death

Monitoring causes of death helps to measure the health status of a population. Causes of death can be used to assess the success of interventions to improve disease outcomes, signal changes in community health status and disease processes, and highlight inequalities in health status between population groups.

In 2016, there were 81,867 deaths among Australian males. The leading cause of death was coronary heart disease, followed by lung cancer and dementia and Alzheimer disease. Males had nearly twice the rate of death from coronary heart disease and lung cancer as females when adjusted for differences in the age structure of the populations (AIHW 2018a). 

Figure 6: Leading causes of death among males, 2016

This figure shows the top 10 leading causes of death among males in 2016. Coronary heart disease contributed to the greatest number of deaths among males with 10,870 deaths. The remaining 9, each less than 6,000 deaths, are lung cancer, dementia and Alzheimer disease, cerebrovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, prostate cancer, diabetes, colorectal cancer, suicide, and cancer of unknown or ill-defined primary site.


  1. Data are based on year of registration of death; deaths registered in 2016 are based on the preliminary version of cause of death data and are subject to further revision by the ABS.
  2. Leading causes of death are based on underlying causes of death and classified using an AIHW-modified version of Becker et al. 2006. International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th revision (ICD-10) codes are presented in parentheses.

Source: AIHW 2018a (Table S6).

Prostate cancer only affects males and is the 6th leading cause of death for males. Between 1985–1989 and 2010–2014, 5-year relative survival from prostate cancer improved from 59% to 95% (AIHW 2018a).

For more information visit Leading causes of death.


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  • ABS 2018b. Life Tables, States, Territories and Australia, 2015–17. ABS cat. no. 3302.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.
  • AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2016. Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2011. Australian Burden of Disease Study series no. 3. Cat. no. BOD 4. Canberra: AIHW.
  • AIHW 2017a. Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality (ACIM) books. Cat. no. WEB 206. Canberra: AIHW. 
  • AIHW 2017b. Life expectancy and disability in Australia: expected years living with and without disability. Cat. no. DIS 66. Canberra: AIHW.
  • AIHW 2018a. Deaths in Australia. Cat. no. PHE 229. Canberra: AIHW.
  • AIHW 2018b. Mortality Over Regions and Time (MORT) books. Cat. no. PHE 217. Canberra: AIHW.
  • Schlichthorst, M., Sanci, L.A., & Hocking, J.S. 2016. Health and lifestyle factors associated with sexual difficulties in men – results from a study of Australian men aged 18 to 55 years. BMC Public Health, 16:3, 1043.