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Australia's Health Report 2016: One in two Australians living with chronic disease 

Australians are living longer than ever but with higher rates of chronic disease according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) 2016 report.   

The new report has revealed one in two Australians are living with chronic disease, with musculoskeletal conditions one of the most common conditions.   

Back pain and other musculoskeletal problems are the leading non-fatal burden of disease in males aged 25-64 and females aged 45-74.

Comorbidities occur in almost one in four people (23 percent) with chronic disease—with one in three people (30 percent) with back pain and problems also experiencing mental health conditions, most commonly among the 0-44 age group.

Only one in three chronic conditions (30 percent) are managed in general practice and more than one in three hospitalisations for chronic disease (39 percent) are potentially preventable.

Confirming trends noted in previous studies, the report also noted the prevalence of chronic disease increases with age (87 percent in people aged 65 and over compared with the 0-44 age group), is greater in females (52 percent), and is more likely in people living in the lowest socioeconomic areas (55 percent) and regional and remote Australia (54 percent).

The report further reveals that about 1 in 5 people aged under 65 (with severe or profound core activity limitation) had arthritis (21%) compared with about 1 in 20 (5.3%) of people without disability.

Chronic diseases are becoming more common, due to population growth and ageing. Half of Australians (more than 11 million) have at least one chronic disease. One quarter of Australians, have two or more chronic diseases.

The most common combination of chronic diseases is arthritis with cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke).

Australians have high rates of the biomedical risk factors that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.  Almost a quarter (23%) of Australian adults has high blood pressure and 63% have abnormal levels of cholesterol.

The findings highlight the need to develop effective and timely treatment of multiple and complex conditions, and provide adequate access to pain services, particularly in regional and remote Australia, to improve health outcomes.

The report analysed self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014-15 National Health Survey, for eight chronic diseases: arthritis, asthma, back pain and problems, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and mental health conditions.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) is required to compile a national report card on the health of Australians and their health system every 2 years.

Reference: AIHW 2016. Australia's health 2016. Australia's health no. 15. Cat. no. AUS 199. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed at http://www.aihw.gov.au/australias-health/2016/ 

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