Indigenous Australians have poorer self-assessed health than non-Indigenous Australians. In 2004-05, Indigenous Australians were twice as likely to report their health as fair or poor compared with other Australians (age standardised rates of 29% and 15% respectively).
Indigenous Australians also have higher rates of hospitalisation and higher prevalence rates for many diseases. Analyses of data from a number of different sources indicate the long-term health conditions responsible for much of the ill-health among Indigenous Australians. These conditions include circulatory diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases, musculoskeletal conditions, kidney disease, and eye and ear problems. Indigenous Australians experience an earlier onset of disease than other Australians for most of these conditions.
Indigenous Australians suffer a burden of disease that is two-and-a-half times greater than the burden of disease in the total Australian population. Chronic illnesses are responsible for 70% of the difference in the burden of disease observed between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer higher rates of mental illness than non-Indigenous people. Indigenous adults were twice as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to report high to very high levels of psychological distress in 2004-05 (age standardised rates of 27% and 13% respectively). However, data on social and emotional wellbeing also reveal that there is a strong sense of positive wellbeing among many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
While data on general practitioner encounters reveal that the rates at which Indigenous people visit general practitioners are similar to those for non-Indigenous people for many conditions, Indigenous people are somewhat underestimated in this dataset and thus the true GP encounter rates for Indigenous people are likely to be much higher than those reported.