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The proportion of people who reported back pain, back problems and disc disorders increased rapidly after early teenage years from 2% among those aged 10-14 years, to 30% among people aged 40-44 years. Prevalence then decreased among those aged between 65 and 85 years before increasing slightly among people in very old age (graph 9.3).
The proportion of people reporting diabetes mellitus as a long-term condition remained below 1% among people aged less than 35 years before slowly increasing. Rates then remained between 10% and 12% for those aged in their early-60s to late-70s before the proportion declined.
The proportion of people who reported having malignant neoplasms also remained relatively low at under 1% among people aged less than 35 years. After this age, proportions of people reporting having a malignant neoplasm steadily increased to 6% among those aged 70 years and over.
There were 132,292 deaths registered in 2003, consisting of 68,330 male and 63,962 female deaths (table 9.4). The number of deaths registered in 2003 represented a decrease of 1.1% on the corresponding figure for 2002 (133,707 deaths). The age-standardised death rate of 642 per 100,000 population in 2003 was lower than the corresponding rate of 667 in 2002. Malignant neoplasms (cancer) and ischaemic heart diseases were the leading underlying causes of death, accounting for 28% and 19% respectively of total deaths registered (table 9.4).
The age-standardised death rate of 642 deaths per 100,000 population in 2003 was 20% lower than the corresponding rate of 800 in 1993. This is consistent with continuing improvements in life expectancy in Australia.
Over the ten years to 2003 there were quite different patterns of decline in the two leading causes of death from malignant neoplasms and ischaemic heart diseases, which together account for nearly half the total deaths. Between 1993 and 2003 the standardised death rate for malignant neoplasms decreased by 12%, while the rate for ischaemic heart diseases decreased by 38% (graph 9.5).
Healthy life expectancy
The WHO has proposed health-adjusted life expectancy as a measure of the expected number of years to be lived without reduced functioning. Healthy life expectancy calculations adjust the overall life expectancy (see Life expectancy in the Population chapter) by the years of life lived with reduced functioning because of ill health.
Australia's healthy life expectancy is among the highest in the world. Australian males can expect to live 70.9 years of life without reduced functioning, and females 74.3 years. Table 9.6 shows healthy life expectancy for selected countries in 2002.
Infant mortality rates
The infant mortality rate (IMR) is defined as the number of deaths of children under one year of age per 1,000 live births. In 2003, 1,200 infant deaths were registered in Australia. This number was 25% lower than the number registered in 1993 (1,600), and 48% lower than in 1983 (2,300). The infant mortality rate of 4.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2003 was 22% lower than the IMR in 1993 (6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births), and half that recorded in 1983 (9.6 deaths per 1,000 live births). Australia's infant mortality has declined significantly in the last 100 years. In 1903, over one in ten infants born did not survive to their first birthday (IMR of 111). In 2003, around one in 200 infants born did not survive their first year of life (IMR of 4.8) (graph 9.7).
The early decline in infant mortality has been linked to improvements in public sanitation and health education. Later declines may be a consequence of the introduction of universal health insurance (Medicare) and improvements in medical technology, such as neonatal intensive care units.
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