4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/08/2001   
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August 30, 2001
Embargoed 11:30am (AEST)

Indigenous Health: Greater Risks, Shorter Life Expectancy

Indigenous Australians have higher death rates, shorter life expectancy, and are more likely to be hospitalised than other Australians, according to a major biennial report launched in Sydney today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Over the period 1997-99, death rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were higher than those recorded in the general population for almost all causes of death and for every age group. In the age group 35-54 years, the Indigenous death rate was 5-6 times higher than for the total Australian population.

The life expectancy at birth for an Indigenous male was 56 years, and for an Indigenous female, 63 years. Comparable life expectancies were experienced by males in the total population in 1901-10, and females in 1920-22. Today males in the total Australian population have a life expectancy of 76 years and females 82 years.

Diseases of the circulatory system, cancer and accidents and injuries together accounted for 60% of all identified Indigenous deaths, affecting Indigenous people at younger ages than in the total Australian population. There were 7-9 times more deaths of Indigenous people from endocrine and metabolic diseases (of which 88% were related to diabetes) based on rates for the total Australian population.

In 1998-99, Indigenous people were more likely than other people to be hospitalised for many diseases and conditions. Just over 26% of hospital stays for Indigenous people were for 'care involving dialysis', making this the main reason for hospitalisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

'There is still a need for many improvements to the way Indigenous health and welfare data are collected in Australia, and the ABS and AIHW, in co-operation with other agencies, are developing strategies to help make this happen,' said Dr Janis Shaw, Director of the ABS National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics, where the report was compiled. 'Despite improvements that have been made in the way health and welfare agencies collect information, further progress is necessary to make the accurate measurement of change more accurate with respect to many Indigenous health and welfare issues.'

Details are in The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2001 (cat. no. 4704.0), available from ABS bookshops in capital cities. If you would like to purchase a copy of the publication please contact the ABS Bookshop in your capital city.