Chronic conditions in Australia

Chronic conditions affect many Australians, who then need to use our health care system more often. Discover some facts and figures about chronic conditions in Australia.

The size of the problem

Chronic conditions are the leading cause of illness, disability and death in Australia.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare provides statistics about chronic conditions. They report on 8 common conditions: arthritis, asthma, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and mental health conditions.

These 8 common conditions have a big impact on Australians, as:

  • 1 in 2 Australians (50%) have at least 1
  • 3 in 5 Australians (60%) aged over 65 years have more than 1
  • around 9 in every 10 deaths are associated with them

Common chronic conditions

According to the National Health Survey, the most common chronic conditions affecting Australians 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%)
  • 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%)

More and more people are living with 1 or more chronic condition in Australia. This is partly because tests can help diagnose chronic conditions earlier and partly because there are better treatments available.

Risk factors

There are many things that affect your risk of developing a chronic condition. We call these ‘risk factors’.

Risk factors fall into 2 main groups:

  1. Ones you can change (for example, smoking, drinking, being overweight, not being physically active)
  2. Ones you can’t change (for example, age, gender, genes you’ve inherited)

Having risk factors increases the chance of you getting a chronic condition. Changing the risk factors you do have control over can help you prevent some chronic conditions.

The following risk factors commonly affect Australians:

Reducing these risk factors in your own life can help keep you healthier for longer.

See more information about what we’re doing about chronic conditions.

Last updated: 
3 March 2020

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