Australians lost an estimated 5.5 million years of healthy life in 2022, many of which were taken by Covid-19, the latest analysis into the country’s population health has revealed.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s latest burden of disease study, last year was the first time in two decades that there has been an increase in ill health experienced by Australians – by two per cent.
The study revealed that while more people are living with poor health than they were four years ago, Australians are overall healthier than they were when monitoring began in 2003, with an 11 per cent decrease in disability-adjusted life years and a 23 per cent decline in fatal burden.
“In other words, fewer Australians are dying prematurely than 19 years ago, but we are still living with similar amounts of ill health,” AIHW spokesman Richard Juckes said.
The leading cause of health burden was cancer, followed by musculoskeletal conditions, cardiovascular diseases, mental and substance abuse disorders and neurological conditions.
Dementia has become the second leading cause of total burden, up from the 12th leading cause in 2003.
“Over the long term, we have seen a large decline in the burden from dying prematurely in many disease groups,” Mr Juckes said.
“Between 2003 and 2022, fatal burden rates fell by 50 per cent for cardiovascular diseases, 26 per cent for cancers, 23 per cent for infant and congenital conditions and 7 per cent for injuries.
“But since 2003, there has been an increase in the rate of fatal burden due to neurological conditions – 42 per cent higher – especially dementia.”
The 2022 study was the first time the burden of Covid-19 on health was factored in. The virus accounted for 2.7 per cent of the total burden, most of which came from premature deaths.
The fatal burden from infectious diseases fell by 39 per cent between 2003 and 2018 but was 143 per cent higher in 2022.