09:10pm Thursday 27 February 2020

Australians living longer but heart disease and Alzheimer’s on the rise

Australians are living longer than they did in 1990 but some conditions, particularly chronic kidney disease and Alzheimer’s disease are on the rise, according to a new analysis of trend data from 188 countries.

Published today in The Lancet, the analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 examined a massive amount of population data to determine the top diseases that caused deaths between 1990-2013.

It found fewer people are dying from heart disease now then they did in 1990 in Australia, but it remains the leading cause of death. In Australia, chronic kidney disease and Alzheimer’s disease took more lives in 2013 than in 1990, with deaths increasing 134 per cent and 126 per cent respectively. Mortality from diabetes also increased 101 per cent.

Senior Co-author Alan Lopez, Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne and Affiliate Professor of Global Health at Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) said the comparatively low mortality rates in Australia are due to bold investment in public policy and campaigns by federal and state governments over the past four decades.

“These efforts have reduced deaths from major preventable causes such as smoking, drink-impaired driving and poor diet, and stopped HIV/AIDS from claiming the number of lives that it has in other developed countries,” he said.

“But more needs to be done. Mortality rates among young adults have barely decreased, and additional steps should be taken to reduce our shockingly high levels of obesity and persistent smoking rates. One in seven Australians still smoke, more than half of whom will die prematurely as a result,” Professor Lopez said.

Out of the 188 countries included in the study, Australia ranked 11th for women and ninth for men for longest life expectancies. Average life expectancy for men in 2013 was 79.7 years while for women it had increased to 84 years.

•    Despite marked declines in mortality from road injuries, down by 30 per cent, this and suicide were the top two causes of death for people between the ages of 15 and 49, resulting in 2,715 lives lost in 2013

•    Globally, the gender gap in death rates for adults between the ages of 20 to 44 has widened, primarily due to higher male than female death rates from HIV/AIDS, interpersonal violence, and  road injuries and persistently high maternal mortality in some countries

•    For children under five, diarrheal diseases, pneumonia, neonatal disorders and malaria are still among the leading causes of death

•    Some diseases and injuries cause higher mortality for males, others do so for females. In Australia, lung cancer took a greater toll on men, killing 5,927 males and 3,436 females in 2013. By contrast, Alzheimer’s disease claimed 8,248 women’s lives and 5,521 men’s lives.

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2013 is part of an ongoing effort to produce the most timely and up-to-date understanding of what kills and ails people worldwide.

The study was conducted by an international consortium of researchers coordinated by the IHME at the University of Washington.

Leading causes of death in Australia, with the number of lives lost:

1990 (deaths)                                                                            2013 (deaths)
1. Ischemic heart disease (31,868)                                                 1. Ischemic heart disease (28,869)
2. Stroke (12,231)                                                                          2. Stroke (14,633)
3. Lung cancer (6,408)                                                                   3. Alzheimer’s disease (13,769)
4. Alzheimer’s disease (6,081)                                                       4. Lung cancer (9,363)
5. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (5,873)                          5. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (7,730)
6. Colon cancer (4,333)                                                                  6. Colon cancer (6,039)
7. Road injuries (2,758)                                                                  7. Diabetes (4,537)
8. Breast cancer (2,493)                                                                 8. Prostate cancer (4,156)
9. Suicide (2,329)                                                                           9. Pneumonia (3,986)
10. Diabetes (2,262)                                                                      10. Chronic kidney disease (3,926)

More Information

Anne Rahilly
+61 3 9035 5380
+61 432 758 734

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