New research has found that Australians are now living longer, but this extended life expectancy comes with a concerning catch.
The latest findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD), published in The Lancet, have found that Australians born today are expected to live six years longer than those born 30 years ago.
However, while they may live longer, it is likely to be in poorer health, according to the research.
An increased number of Australians are battling major health issues caused by diabetes, which now accounts for the third biggest cause of increased health loss between 1990 and 2019.
More than half of the declining health in Australians is now due to chronic diseases and injury, with many of these illnesses and injuries preventable.
High blood pressure, dietary issues and tobacco use were the three leading health risk factors associated with deaths in Australia last year.
The leading risk factors for health loss across the country were similar, with tobacco use topping the list, followed by having a high body-mass index and high blood pressure.
Bill Stavreski, Heart Foundation General Manager of Heart Health, said the findings present both good and bad news for Australians.
“The good news is life expectancy in Australia is increasing and deaths from heart disease continue to decline. The bad news is that we’re living longer in poorer health and many of our risk factors for heart disease continue to climb,” Mr Stavreski said.
“These findings show that the top five risk factors for death and health loss in Australia are all leading risks for heart disease – our single biggest killer.”
The research findings also provided new insights into how well countries were prepared to deal with how underlying health issues could interact with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Stavreski said the major factors contributing to the poor health of Australians are largely treatable, adding that several of the health issues outlined in the research paper were associated with an increased risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19.
“As a nation, we cannot afford to underestimate the impact these risk factors can have on our heart health, our overall health and our ability to combat the threat of future pandemics,” he said.
“We’re also concerned to see that diabetes is one of the biggest contributors to increases in health loss in Australia in the last 30 years. People with diabetes are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people without diabetes.”
The Australian Department of Health has previously warned, while anyone can develop a serious illness from COVID-19, those with chronic health conditions or weakened immune systems are at greater risk.
Having two or more chronic conditions, such as heart disease and a high body-mass index, could increase a person’s risk even more.
People with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems have been urged to be particularly careful during the pandemic and follow the guidelines set out by authorities.
These include maintaining good hygiene, practising physical distancing, avoiding large crowds, staying home and getting tested if you are sick and avoiding people who are sick or in self-isolation.
DEADLIEST HEALTH ISSUES IN AUSTRALIA IN 2019:
1. High blood pressure (25,000 deaths)
2. Dietary risks e.g. low fruit, high salt (21,600 deaths)
3. Tobacco use (20,100 deaths)
4. High body-mass index (18,700 deaths)
5. High fasting plasma glucose (17,700 deaths)
TOP RISK FACTORS FOR HEALTH LOSS IN 2019:
1. Tobacco use
2. High body-mass index
3. High blood pressure
4. Dietary risks
5. High fasting plasma glucose