Nationwide maps show where Australia's most common chronic diseases are highest

HEALTH MAPPED OUT: Type 2 diabetes prevalence in Australia. Darker sections indicate population areas with a higher percentage of the disease. Credit: AIHW 2021.
HEALTH MAPPED OUT: Type 2 diabetes prevalence in Australia. Darker sections indicate population areas with a higher percentage of the disease. Credit: AIHW 2021.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released new geographical data, showing where Australia's most common chronic diseases are more prevalent.

Burden of disease

Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease are together responsible for the country's highest 'burden of disease' - the years of healthy life lost to a disease.

They account for 14 per cent, 2.2 per cent and 1.4 per cent of the burden of disease, respectively.

While common, these diseases are not evenly distributed.

For instance, 6.2 per cent of Australian adults report having heart, stroke and vascular disease, but for Northern Territorians the rate is only 1.8 per cent.

Conversely, 7.4 per cent of adults in the NT have type 2 diabetes, compared to 5.9 per cent of the national adult population.

There are even larger discrepancies between smaller areas.

More lifestyle:

Population health snap shot

By the population health area, which divides Australia into geographical regions of between roughly 3000 and 25,000 people, diabetes prevalence ranges from 0.7 per cent to 14.2 per cent.

Heart, stroke and vascular disease ranges from 1.8 per cent to 11.9 per cent, while chronic kidney disease ranges from 3.9 per cent to 17.2 per cent.

Hospitalisation and death rates from these diseases are similarly variable.

Age explains some of the variation: areas with older residents have, on average, higher rates of disease. But adjusting for age, there are still large discrepancies.

Areas with greater socioeconomic disadvantage have higher rates of disease when age is taken into account.

Regional and remote areas, and places with high proportions of Indigenous Australians, also had worse health profiles when adjusted for age.

The AIHW has released this data in a series of dashboards on their website, where you can examine your own state or suburb's health profile.

  • This article is published in partnership with Cosmos Magazine. Cosmos is produced by The Royal Institution of Australia.