The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) latest national report card contains “a lot of good news” according to its authors. It’s a comprehensive analysis on the health of Australians and our health system which is released every two years.

To save you reading through all 497 pages, we’ve broken down some of the report’s key results. The full report is available publically from the AIWH if you’d like to dig a little deeper. There’s also a smaller companion report that summarises key statistics and concepts.

Are we a healthy nation?

According to the report, Australians are living longer than ever and our life expectancy is one of the highest in the world.

“A boy born between 2012 and 2014 can expect to live to 80.3 years and a girl to 84.4 years,” the report read.

To put that in perspective, babies born now are living about 11 to 13 years longer than those born in 1955. And, going back even further, 126 years ago men were only expected to live until they turned 47 and women 50.

Other key areas Australians scored well include:

  • Self-rated health. Eighty-five per cent of Australians aged 15 and over self-rated their health as ‘good’ or better. Among 34 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries we rank only behind New Zealand on this measure
  • Smoking. Fewer people smoke today than 20 years ago. Fewer people are being exposed to tobacco smoking, more people are delaying the uptake of smoking and smokers are smoking fewer cigarettes
  • Heart health. The incidence of heart attacks and the death rate from cardiovascular disease have improved
  • Death rates. There has been a long and continuing fall in death rates in Australia.

So the answer is, yes, we’re a relatively healthy nation but there’s a lot of room for improvement. As the report explains: we’re “doing well, but could do better.”


Experts still have “big concerns” for Australians

We may be living longer, but with higher rates of chronic disease. According to AIHW’s report, chronic diseases are “the leading cause of ill health, disability and death in Australia, and have a significant impact on the health system”.

A panel of experts explained the finding in a piece for The Conversation.

“Chronic diseases are becoming more common, due to population growth and ageing,” the article read.

“Half of Australians (more than 11 million) have at least one chronic disease.

“One quarter have two or more.”

For the first time cancer is our biggest overall killer. Historically that title belonged to heart disease.

“The total number of deaths due to all types of cancer combined (44,100) surpassed the total number of deaths due to cardiovascular disease (43,600).”

Other key areas where the country performed poorly:

  • Many Australians are “not getting a fair go at health”. There is a gradient across society whereby “the richer the area you live in, the longer you can expect to live”
  • There’s a significant gap in health between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Life expectancy for Indigenous Australians is up to 10.6 years lower and they are twice as likely to die from an injury or illness
  • More than 1 million Australians have diabetes
  • Some us are putting ourselves at risk by smoking, being overweight, drinking too much alcohol and not exercising enough.

If you have any concerns about your health, there’s help available. You can start by visiting your regular GP who can direct you to the right medical care.