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85 out of 100 Australians say they’re healthy - but are we really?

20 September, 2016

Most Australians consider themselves to be in good health, according to the latest two-yearly report card from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Australia's health 2016 is a key information resource, and was launched today by federal Health Minister, the Hon. Sussan Ley.

AIHW Director and CEO Barry Sandison said the report provided new insights and new ways of understanding the health of Australians.

'The report shows that Australia has much to be proud of in terms of health,' he said.

'We are living longer than ever before, death rates continue to fall, and most of us consider ourselves to be in good health.'

If Australia had a population of just 100 people, 56 would rate their health as 'excellent', or 'very good' and 29 as 'good'.

'However, 19 of us would have a disability, 20 a mental health disorder in the last 12 months, and 50 at least one chronic disease.'

Sandison said the influence of lifestyle factors on a person's health was a recurring theme of the report.

'13 out of 100 of us smoke daily, 18 drink alcohol at risky levels, and 95 do not eat the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables.

'And while 55 do enough physical activity, 63 of us are overweight or obese.'

Sandison said that while lifestyle choices were a major contributor to the development of many chronic diseases, other factors such as our income, education and whether we had a job-known as 'social determinants'—all affected our health, for better or worse.

'As a general rule, every step up the socioeconomic ladder is accompanied by an increase in health.

'Compared with people living in the highest socioeconomic areas, people living in the lowest socioeconomic areas generally live about 3 years less, are 1.6 times as likely to have more than one chronic health condition, and are 3 times as likely to smoke daily.'

As well as looking at factors influencing individuals' health, today's report also examines the health of particular population groups, and shows considerable disparities.

'For example, while there have been some improvements overall in the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians—including falls in smoking rates and infant mortality—Indigenous Australians continue to have a lower life expectancy than non-Indigenous Australians, at 69.1 years for males and 73.7 for females, more than 10 years shorter than for non-Indigenous Australians,' Sandison said.

Indigenous Australians also continue to have higher rates of many diseases, such as diabetes, end-stage kidney disease and coronary heart disease.

For people living in rural and remote areas, where accessing services can be more difficult, lower life expectancy and higher rates of disease and injury—particularly road accidents—are of concern.

In Australia, health services are delivered by a mix of public and private providers that includes more than 1,300 hospitals and about 385,000 nurses, midwives and medical practitioners.

Of the $155 billion spent on health in 2013–14, $145 billion was recurrent expenditure. Hospitals accounted for 40% of recurrent expenditure ($59 billion), primary health care 38% ($55 billion), with the remaining 22% spent on other health goods and services. For the first time, the report examines how spending by age for people admitted to hospital has changed over time.

Sandison said the analysis showed that the largest increase in spending between 2004–05 and 2012–13 was for Australians aged 50 and over.

'This was due to more being spent per person in the population as well as the increased number of people in these age groups.'

Sandison also said that while Australia's health 2016 provides an excellent overview of Australia's health at a point in time, there is still scope to expand on the analysis.

'New to this edition is information on the changing nature of services provided by public and private hospitals over the last 10 years; information about how geography affects Indigenous women's access to maternal health services; and about the increasing role of institutions such as hospitals and residential aged care in end-of-life care.

'Good data is essential to inform debate and policy and service delivery decision-making—and improving its quality and availability is at the core of the AIHW's work.

'We're committed to providing meaningful, comprehensive information about Australia's health and wellbeing—to help create a healthier Australia.'

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