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Chronic conditions

Contains key statistics and information about various chronic conditions and their prevalence in Australia, including state and territory findings

Reference period
2017-18
Released
12/12/2018
Next release Unknown
First release

Key statistics

  • 47% of Australians had one or more chronic conditions.
  • Over the last decade the prevalence of chronic conditions increased (from 42%).
  • Females aged 15 years and over were more likely than males to have a chronic condition (57% compared to 51%).
  • The prevalence of chronic conditions increased with age.

Chronic conditions

Key findings

Just under half (47.3%) of Australians had one or more chronic conditions in 2017-18, an increase from 2007-08 when two-fifths (42.2%) of people had one or more chronic conditions.

Chronic health conditions experienced in Australia in 2017-18 were: 

  • Mental and behavioural conditions - 4.8 million people (20.1%) 
  • Back problems - 4.0 million people (16.4%) 
  • Arthritis - 3.6 million people (15.0%) 
  • Asthma - 2.7 million people (11.2%) 
  • Diabetes mellitus- 1.2 million people (4.9%) comprising Type 1 Diabetes - 144,800 people (0.6%) and Type 2 Diabetes - 998,100 people (4.1%) 
  • Heart, stroke and vascular disease - 1.2 million people (4.8%) 
  • Osteoporosis - 924,000 people (3.8%) 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - 598,800 people (2.5%) 
  • Cancer - 432,400 people (1.8%) 
  • Kidney disease - 237,800 people (1.0%)
     

Definitions

Chronic conditions are conditions that contribute to premature mortality and morbidity. Persons diagnosed with one or more types of chronic conditions often have complex health needs, have poorer quality of life and die prematurely[1]. In this publication, 'selected chronic conditions' consist of the following:

  • arthritis
  • asthma 
  • back problems 
  • cancer 
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) 
  • diabetes mellitus 
  • heart, stroke and vascular disease 
  • kidney disease 
  • mental and behavioural conditions 
  • osteoporosis
     

Estimates for 'Number of selected chronic conditions' count multiple conditions that belong to the same condition type (e.g. Mental and behavioural conditions) as the one condition. For example, a person with anxiety and depression (and no other chronic condition) is counted as having one chronic condition.

Who had chronic conditions in 2017-18?

Females aged 15 years and over were more likely than males to have one or more chronic conditions (56.5% compared to 50.8%), however, for children (0-14 years old) boys were more likely than girls to have one or more chronic conditions (24.2% compared to 15.9%). The prevalence of chronic conditions increased with age, with four in five (80.0%) people aged 65 years and over having one or more chronic conditions.

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Around one in nine (11.5%) people had two chronic conditions in 2017-18, while 8.7% had three or more chronic conditions. One in five Australians (20.1%) reported mental health and behavioural conditions, which was the most commonly reported chronic condition in 2017-18 for both males and females. Back problems (16.4%) and Arthritis (15.0%) were the next most commonly reported chronic conditions in 2017-18.

State and territory findings

Chronic conditions experienced in Australia in 2017-18

Chronic conditionsAustraliaRange
FromTo
Mental and behavioural conditions4.8 million people (20.1%)15.9% in Northern Territory22.7% in Queensland
Back problems4.0 million people (16.4%)13.7% in Northern Territory18.2% in Tasmania
Asthma2.7 million people (11.2%)7.4% in Northern Territory13.0% in South Australia, 12.9% in Tasmania
Diabetes mellitus1.2 million people (4.9%)4.0% in Australian Capital Territory6.0% in South Australia
Heart, stroke and vascular disease1.2 million people (4.8%)2.0% in Northern Territory6.0% in Tasmania
Osteoporosis924,000 people (3.8%)1.1% in Northern Territory5.0% in Tasmania
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)598,800 people (2.5%)1.7% in Northern Territory3.4% in Queensland
Cancer432,400 people (1.8%)1.5% in Western Australia3.0% in Tasmania
Kidney disease237,800 people (1.0%)0.5% in Tasmania1.5% in Northern Territory

New South Wales

Chronic health conditions experienced were:

  • Mental and behavioural conditions - 1.5 million people (19.1%) 
  • Arthritis - 1.2 million people (15.2%) 
  • Back problems - 1.1 million people (14.6%) 
  • Asthma - 829,100 people (10.7%) 
  • Diabetes mellitus - 390,700 people (5.0%) 
  • Heart, stroke and vascular disease - 353,100 people (4.5%) 
  • Osteoporosis - 342,300 people (4.4%) 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - 208,800 people (2.7%) 
  • Cancer - 132,700 people (1.7%) 
  • Kidney disease - 69,900 people (0.9%)
     

New South Wales had a higher rate of Osteoporosis compared with Australia (4.4% compared with 3.8%) and a lower rate of Back problems (14.6% compared with 16.4%). Other conditions were similar to the national rates.

Victoria

Chronic health conditions experienced were:

  • Mental and behavioural conditions - 1.3 million people (20.2%) 
  • Back problems - 1.1 million people (17.3%) 
  • Arthritis - 960,800 people (15.3%) 
  • Asthma - 714,000 people (11.4%) 
  • Heart, stroke and vascular disease - 320,200 people (5.1%) 
  • Diabetes mellitus - 311,000 people (5.0%) 
  • Osteoporosis - 202,600 people (3.2%) 
  • Cancer - 130,400 people (2.1%) 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - 116,700 people (1.9%) 
  • Kidney disease - 72,100 people (1.1%)
     

Victoria had a lower rate of Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) compared with Australia (1.9% compared with 2.5%). Other conditions were similar to the national rate.

Queensland

Chronic health conditions experienced were:

  • Mental and behavioural conditions - 1.1 million people (22.7%) 
  • Back problems - 807,000 people (16.8%) 
  • Arthritis - 676,000 people (14.1%) 
  • Asthma - 572,200 people (11.9%) 
  • Heart, stroke and vascular disease - 226,000 people (4.7%) 
  • Diabetes mellitus - 217,300 people (4.5%) 
  • Osteoporosis - 180,700 people (3.8%) 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - 163,800 people (3.4%) 
  • Cancer - 78,100 people (1.6%) 
  • Kidney disease - 47,000 people (1.0%)
     

Queensland had higher rates of Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (3.4% compared with 2.5%) and Mental and behavioural conditions (22.7% compared with 20.1%) compared with Australia. All other conditions were similar to the national rate.

South Australia

Chronic health conditions experienced were:

  • Mental and behavioural conditions - 334,500 people (19.9%) 
  • Arthritis - 297,700 people (17.7%) 
  • Back problems - 293,900 people (17.5%) 
  • Asthma - 218,800 people (13.0%) 
  • Diabetes mellitus - 101,100 people (6.0%) 
  • Heart, stroke and vascular disease - 92,200 people (5.5%) 
  • Osteoporosis - 62,100 people (3.7%) 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - 40,000 people (2.4%) 
  • Cancer - 33,400 people (2.0%) 
  • Kidney disease - 18,700 people (1.1%)
     

Compared with Australia, South Australia had a higher rate of Arthritis (17.7% compared with 15.0%) and Asthma (13.0% compared with 11.2%). While the older age structure of South Australia (median age of 39 compared with 37 nationally) contributes to these differences, the difference for Asthma remained even after differences in age structures were taken into account.

Western Australia

Chronic health conditions experienced were:

  • Back problems - 442,600 people (17.8%) 
  • Mental and behavioural conditions - 441,300 people (17.8%) 
  • Arthritis - 319,600 people (12.9%) 
  • Asthma - 237,100 people (9.6%) 
  • Heart, stroke and vascular disease - 112,400 people (4.5%) 
  • Diabetes mellitus - 103,700 people (4.2%) 
  • Osteoporosis - 76,200 people (3.1%) 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - 46,400 people (1.9%) 
  • Cancer - 37,900 people (1.5%) 
  • Kidney disease - 22,500 people (0.9%)
     

Western Australia had lower rates of Arthritis compared with Australia (12.9% compared with 15.0%), as well as lower rates of Mental and behavioural conditions (17.8% compared with 20.1%). Other conditions were similar to the national rates.

Tasmania

Chronic health conditions experienced were:

  • Mental and behavioural conditions - 111,200 people (21.7%) 
  • Arthritis - 104,300 people (20.3%) 
  • Back problems - 93,400 people (18.2%) 
  • Asthma - 66,000 people (12.9%) 
  • Heart, stroke and vascular disease - 31,000 people (6.0%) 
  • Diabetes mellitus - 28,400 people (5.5%) 
  • Osteoporosis - 25,400 people (5.0%) 
  • Cancer - 15,200 people (3.0%) 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - 14,000 people (2.7%) 
  • Kidney disease - 2,500* people (0.5%)
     

Compared with Australia, Tasmania had higher rates of many chronic conditions compared with Australia, in particular; Arthritis (20.3% compared with 15.0%), Asthma (12.9% compared with 11.2%), Cancer (3.0% compared with 1.8%), Heart, stroke and vascular disease (6.0% compared with 4.8%) and Osteoporosis (5.0% compared with 3.8%) While the older age structure of Tasmania (median age of 41 compared with 37 nationally) contributes to these differences, the difference for Arthritis and Asthma remained even after differences in age structures were taken into account.

Northern Territory

Chronic health conditions experienced were:

  • Mental and behavioural conditions - 28,100 people (15.9%) 
  • Back problems - 24,300 people (13.7%) 
  • Arthritis - 16,200 people (9.2%) 
  • Asthma - 13,100 people (7.4%) 
  • Diabetes mellitus - 9,800 people (5.5%) 
  • Heart, stroke and vascular disease - 3,600 people (2.0%) 
  • Cancer - 3,100 people (1.8%) 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - 3,000 people (1.7%) 
  • Kidney disease - 2,700 people (1.5%) 
  • Osteoporosis - 2,000* people (1.1%)
     

Compared with Australia, Northern Territory had lower rates for Arthritis (9.2% compared with 15.0%), Asthma (7.4% compared with 11.2%), Heart, stroke and vascular disease (2.0% compared with 4.8%), Mental and behavioural conditions (15.9% compared with 20.1%) and Osteoporosis (1.1% compared with 3.8%). While the younger age structure of Northern Territory (median age of 34 compared with 37 nationally) contributes to these differences, all differences remained even after differences in age structures were taken into account.

Australian Capital Territory

Chronic health conditions experienced were:

  • Mental and behavioural conditions - 83,600 people (20.8%) 
  • Back problems - 67,900 people (16.9%) 
  • Arthritis - 60,100 people (14.9%) 
  • Asthma - 48,700 people (12.1%) 
  • Osteoporosis - 19,400 people (4.8%) 
  • Heart, stroke and vascular disease - 18,100 people (4.5%) 
  • Diabetes mellitus - 16,200 people (4.0%) 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - 9,700 people (2.4%) 
  • Cancer - 8,300 people (2.1%) 
  • Kidney disease - 3,500* people (0.9%)
     

The Australian Capital Territory had similar chronic health condition rates compared with Australian rates.

Data downloads

Table 1: Summary health characteristics, 2001 to 2017-18 - Australia

Table 2: Summary health characteristics, 2017-18 - States and territories

Table 3: Long-term health conditions - Australia

Table 4: Long-term health conditions by population characteristics - Australia

Table 5: Selected current long-term conditions by health risk factors and health status - Australia

Table 18: Number of selected chronic conditions by population characteristics - Australia

Table 19: Comorbidity of selected chronic conditions - Australia

Table 20: New South Wales

Table 21: Victoria

Table 22: Queensland

Table 23: South Australia

Table 24: Western Australia

Table 25: Tasmania

Table 26: Northern Territory

Table 27: Australian Capital Territory

Table 33: Small area estimates

Released 17/04/2020

Additional data cube with modelled small area estimates for persons with chronic health conditions by age for Statistical Areas Level 2 (SA2) of usual residence have been added.

All data cubes

Endnotes

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  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 'Australia's Health 2018, 3.3 Chronic Conditions' https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/6bc8a4f7-c251-4ac4-9c05-140a473efd7b/aihw-aus-221-chapter-3-3.pdf.aspx; last accessed 31/10/2018

* Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4364.0.55.001.