Chronic conditions

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:

  • have complex and multiple causes
  • may affect individuals alone or with other diseases
  • usually have a gradual onset
  • occur across the life cycle
  • compromise quality of life and create limitations and disability
  • are long-term and persistent.

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.

Around 1 in 2

Australian males have 1 or more of the 10 selected chronic conditions

According to 2017–18 data, around 1 in 2 (46%) males are estimated to have one or more of the 10 selected common chronic conditions. Of these males, 28% have one, 11% have two, and 7.1% have three or more (ABS 2018a).

The self-reported prevalence of these chronic conditions varies with age (ABS 2018a):

  • 3 in 4 men aged 65 and over (76%) have at least one chronic condition
  • 2 in 5 men aged 45 and under do (38%). 
Table 2: Selected chronic conditions, males, 2017–18(a)




Mental and behavioural problems



Back problems












Heart, stroke and vascular disease(c)



Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(d)









Chronic kidney disease




  1. This data is self-reported and likely under-reports the true prevalence of chronic conditions.
  2. Percentages relate to males with at least one chronic condition.
  3. Includes angina, heart attack, other ischaemic heart diseases, stroke, other cerebrovascular diseases, oedema, heart failure, and diseases of the arteries, arterioles and capillaries. Estimates include persons who reported they had angina, heart attack, other ischaemic heart diseases, stroke or other cerebrovascular diseases but that these conditions were not current at the time of interview
  4. COPD here refers to self-reported current and long-term bronchitis and/or emphysema. COPD occurs mostly in people aged 45 and over. While it is occasionally reported in younger age groups, in those aged 45 and over there is more certainty that the condition is COPD and not another respiratory condition. For this reason only people aged 45 and over are included for the COPD line of this table.

Sources: ABS 2018a, ABS 2019. See Table S10 for footnotes.

For more detailed information about 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 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, the most common cancer among males, will be diagnosed in 2020

In 2020, it is estimated males will account for more than half (54%) of all new cancer cases (79,421 cases). The risk for Australian males of being diagnosed with cancer before their 85th birthday is 1 in 2. The most common cancer diagnosis in males is prostate cancer, followed by colorectal cancer, melanoma of the skin, and lung cancer (AIHW 2018).

The most common cancer diagnosis in males varies by age. For example, in 2019, leukaemia and testicular cancer were the most common cancers in males aged under 35 and melanoma of the skin, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer were the most common cancers in men aged over 35 (AIHW 2018).

Figure 13: Estimated age-specific incidence and mortality rate for all cancers, males, 2020

This line graph shows there was relatively low incidence of cancer among younger age groups 0–4 to 20–24, with incidence gradually increasing for those aged 25–29 to 50–54, and then increasing sharply between those aged 50–54 to 85 and over. The cancer mortality rate line is relatively low until age 40–44, when it then begins to increase exponentially in each successive age group to those aged 85 and over.

Chart: AIHW. Source: AIHW 2018 see (Table S11 for footnotes).

Mental health

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 men (AIHW 2019a).

Nearly 1 in 2      

Australian males 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):

  • around 1 in 5 Australian males (18%) were estimated to have a current mental or behavioural condition that had lasted, or was expected to last, 6 months or more
  • the most common mental and behavioural conditions were anxiety related problems (62%) and mood (affective) disorders (56%)
  • around 1 in 10 men aged 18 years and over (11%) were estimated to have experienced a high or very high level of psychological distress in the last 12 months.

Other sources of administrative data show that, in 2017–18, more than 1.6 million Australian males (14%) received a mental health-related prescription in 2017–18 (AIHW 2019d).

The 2010 Survey of High Impact Psychosis estimated that the 12 month prevalence of males aged 18–64 with an psychotic disorder in contact with public specialised mental health services in Australia was 38,859 (5.4 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 under 1 in 5 (16.3%) boys aged 4–17 had experienced a mental disorder in the previous 12 months (Lawrence et al. 2015).

For more information of the mental health of Australians, see Mental health services.