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The hard work’s paying off, health report shows

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A new report shows locals are getting healthier.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) as a nation we have gained 5 million years of healthy life by reducing our risk of dying prematurely from disease and injury.

By reducing our leading risk factors like tobacco use, being overweight and having high blood pressure, Australians are prolonging their life expectancy.

The report entitled Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018 measures the number of years living with an illness or injury (the non-fatal burden) or lost through dying prematurely (the fatal burden).

AIHW spokesperson Richard Juckes says the study focused on five disease groups that caused the most burden; cancer, musculoskeletal conditions, cardiovascular diseases, mental and substance use disorders and injuries.

“In 2018, Australians lost five million years of healthy life due to living with, or dying prematurely from, disease and injury.”

Illness and injury, Mr Juckes says, accounted for 52% of total burden, with dying prematurely making up 48%. 

“After accounting for the increase in size and ageing of the population, over the 15 years to 2018, the total burden of disease decreased by 13%.”

The majority of these gains, he says, are attributed to a 24% decline in premature dying.

“Of the five million years of healthy life lost, 1.9 million (38%) of these were potentially preventable by reducing exposure to the risk factors included in the study,” he said.

Overall, tobacco use contributed the most burden of all risk factors at 8.6%, followed by overweight (including obesity) (8.4%), dietary risks (5.4%), high blood pressure (5.1%), and alcohol use (4.5%).

Tobacco use was the leading risk factor for both males and females, contributing to almost 20,500 deaths (13% of all deaths) in 2018. 

Overweight (including obesity) was the highest contributor to non-fatal burden.

Due to declines in smoking prevalence and associated diseases, the gap in total disease burden due to tobacco use and overweight has been narrowing over time.

Location also plays a vital role in an Australian’s overall life expectancy.

“People living in the highest socioeconomic areas lived more years in full health, without disease or injury, compared to those in the lowest socioeconomic areas,” Mr. Juckes said.

“Additionally, those living in remote and very remote areas experience 40% higher burden compared to those in major cities.”

The AIHW are quick to point out that the report predates the COVID-19 pandemic.

Detailed findings from the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018, and a report detailing the burden of disease experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are planned for release in late 2021.

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