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The 1995 National Health Survey estimated that 11.3% of Australians (2.04 million people) had asthma, generally as a long-term condition. This represents an increase from the prevalence in 1989-90 National Health Survey, which estimated that 8.5% of Australians had the condition.
According to the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) survey, asthma is the sixth most frequently managed problem by general practitioners, accounting for 32 of every 1,000 encounters (AIHW General Practice Statistics and Classification Unit 1999). Asthma is also one of the top five reasons for doctors referring patients to hospital. During 1997-98, asthma was the principal diagnosis in 60,280 hospital separations (1.1% of all hospital separations), with an average stay of 3.5 days. The number of hospital separations increases substantially to 251,470 (or 4.5% of all separations) if both principal and additional diagnoses of asthma are included.
Asthma accounted for 0.3% of deaths in Australia in 1999, when 160 males and 264 females died from the disease. As graph 9.24 shows, between 1989 and 1999 the standardised death rates due to asthma declined for males (from 5.9 to 1.7 per 100,000) and females (from 5.8 to 2.2 per 100,000). In 1999 death rates were highest for those aged 65 years and over for both males and females.