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Chronic disease in Australia

News — Posted 14/11/14

Chronic diseases are the leading cause of illness, disability and death in Australia, research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows.

Chronic diseases such as kidney disease, diabetes and depression make up the biggest health challenge facing Australia today. Nine in 10 deaths have chronic disease as an underlying cause (Australia’s Health 2014 - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2014). Chronic diseases are defined as illnesses which are long-lasting and typically have no cure, and so require long-term management. They can range from mild conditions such as tooth decay, through to debilitating conditions such as diabetes, to life-threatening conditions such as heart disease.

Newly released Medibank data shows that chronic disease affects more than 14% of Medibank members. In total, Medibank paid out almost $600 million for chronic disease related claims on behalf of its members (where the chronic disease was the primary reason for the hospital admission), during FY2014. This amount has almost doubled in the last ten years.

(Source: Medibank report 'Chronic disease and the health of Australians', Nov 2014)

Chronic kidney disease was the most common reason Medibank members presented at a hospital, accounting for 36% of chronic disease related hospital admissions. This was followed by oral disease, which covers diseases that impact oral health such as cavities and gum disease (18%), then depression (17%).

Medibank’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Ian Boyd says it is imperative that we develop effective management and treatment solutions to minimise the burden on society.

“With changing lifestyles and an ageing population, chronic diseases have become increasingly common and now cause most of the burden of ill health,” Dr Boyd says. “Although we live longer these days, one of the disadvantages is that people may be living longer with incurable and often debilitating diseases.

“According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, currently, nine in 10 deaths have chronic disease as an underlying cause. In addition to the personal impact on an individual’s quality of life, chronic diseases cause an economic burden due to the effects of healthcare costs and lost productivity from illness.

“We need to transform the way we respond to chronic disease, to make sure that as individuals live longer, they also live in better health.”

For more information, read Medibank’s report on chronic disease here. 

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