Australians continue to enjoy one of the world’s longest life expectancies, sixth amongst developed countries. Fewer Australians smoke on a daily basis (15%), and our mortality rates from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer have dropped.

Over the last two decades the death rate from cancer fell 23% for males and 17% for females; and the death rate from CVD has fallen a staggering 78% since 1968. Overall, a majority of Australians (85%) rate their health as excellent/very good or good, compared to 15% who rate it as fair or poor.

So says Australia’s Health 2012, the thirteenth report on Australia’s health released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) on 21 June 2012. While it reveals some good news, Australia’s Health 2012 also presents evidence of some negative trends.

The health status of indigenous Australians, for example, remains poorer than for non-indigenous Australians with indigenous Australians experiencing lower life expectancy (12 years less for males and 10 less for females), higher rates of daily smoking (2.2 times higher), and three times the rate of diabetes.

Australians overall are getting fatter —25% of adults and 8% of children are obese. We are becoming more sedentary with 60% of adults doing insufficient exercise; and eating less healthily, with only 50% of adults eating enough fruit and less than one in 10 eating enough vegetables. The consequence of these poor health behaviours has seen our rate of diabetes more than double over the last decade.

At the same time, the cost of health is growing well above inflation. As a nation we now spend over $121 billion a year on health care. Most of this expenditure comes from governments (70%), but increasingly individuals are bearing a greater cost burden (17.5%), particularly for dental care ($4.7 billion) and medications ($7.7 billion).

Information Source: Australia’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Library

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