Overall, one-quarter (25%) of prison entrants reported currently having one or more chronic conditions. Asthma was the most common chronic condition (17% of entrants), followed by arthritis (9%) (Figure 1).
Twenty-three per cent of the 1,011 prison entrants reported that they had ever been told they have asthma. Of these, 70% (or 17% of all entrants) still had the condition. A higher proportion of female than male entrants (31% and 22%, respectively) reported ever having been told they have asthma.
One-in-ten (10%) prison entrants reported ever having been told they have arthritis. The majority of these (91%, or 9% of all entrants) reported that they still had the condition. Arthritis was twice as common among female (18%) as male (9%) entrants, and increased steadily with age from 3% of the youngest entrants aged under 25 to 26% of those aged at least 45 years. Non-Indigenous entrants (12%) were more likely than Indigenous entrants (7%) to report having been told they have arthritis.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD)
Six per cent of prison entrants reported ever having been told they have CVD, and just over half reported still having the condition (51%, or 3% of all entrants). The youngest entrants to report ever being told they have CVD were in the 25–34 years age group (4%), and those in the oldest age group (aged at least 45 years) were more than 4 times as likely to report ever being diagnosed (18%).
Four per cent of prison entrants reported ever having been told they have diabetes and almost all (88%, or 36 out of 41) still had the condition when entering prison. Consistent with the increasing prevalence of diabetes with age, a history of diabetes was reported by 14% of entrants aged 45 and over, compared with 1% of those aged 18–24. Diabetes was also more common among Indigenous than non-Indigenous entrants (7% and 3% ever diagnosed, respectively), and women (7%) than men (3%).
Cancer was reported by 3% of entrants, and was current for 9 of the 32 ever diagnosed (1% overall). The oldest entrants were most likely to report ever having been told they have cancer (9% of those aged at least 45 years compared with 1% of the youngest entrants aged 18–24 years).
Figure 1: Prison entrants who have ever been told that they have a chronic health condition, 2015
Note: Excludes New South Wales as complete data were not provided for this item.
Sources: Entrant form, NPHDC 2015.
See Chapter 7 of The health of Australia's prisoners 2015.