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The proportion of persons 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 persons aged 40-44 years. Prevalence then decreased among those aged between 65 and 85 years before increasing slightly among persons in very old age (graph 9.3).
The proportion of persons reporting diabetes mellitus as a long-term condition remained below 1% among persons 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 persons who reported having malignant neoplasms also remained relatively low at under 1% among persons aged less than 35 years. After this age, proportions of persons reporting having a malignant neoplasm steadily increased to 6% among those aged 70 years and over.
There were 133,707 deaths registered in 2002, consisting of 68,885 male and 64,822 female deaths (table 9.4). The number of deaths registered in 2002 represented an increase of 4.0% on the corresponding figure for 2001 (128,544 deaths). The age-standardised death rate of 665 per 100,000 population in 2002 was slightly higher than the corresponding rate of 662 in 2001. Malignant neoplasms (cancer) and ischaemic heart diseases were the leading underlying causes of death, accounting for 28% and 20% respectively of total deaths registered (table 9.4).
The age-standardised death rate of 665 deaths per 100,000 population in 2002 was 21% lower than the corresponding rate of 838 in 1992. This is consistent with continuing improvements in life expectancy in Australia.
Over the 10 years to 2002 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 1992 and 2002 the standardised death rate for malignant neoplasms decreased by 10%, while the rate for ischaemic heart diseases decreased by 41% (graph 9.5).
Healthy life expectancy
The WHO has proposed healthy 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, Chapter 5 Population) 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 per 1,000 live births between birth and exactly one year of age. In 2002, 1,260 infant deaths were registered in Australia. The number of infant deaths registered in 2002 was 31.4% lower than the number registered in 1992 (1,840), and 49.1% lower than in 1982 (2,500). Infant mortality rates of 5.0 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2002 was 28.6% lower than the IMR in 1992 (7.0 deaths per 1,000 live births), and 51.5% lower than in 1982 (10.3 deaths per 1,000 live births). Australia's infant mortality has declined by 95% in the last 100 years. In 1902, over 1 in 10 infants born did not survive to their first birthday (IMR of 107.1). In 2002, 1 in 200 infants born will not survive their first year of life (IMR of 5.0) (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.