Aussies living longer but in poorer health

An Australian born today is expected to live six years longer than an Australian born thirty years ago, but poor health will reduce the quality of life gained, according to new data published in The Lancet.


The latest findings* from the Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) provide new insights on how well countries were prepared in terms of underlying health for the COVID-19 pandemic and set out the major health challenges to overcome the threat of future pandemics.


Concerningly, the threat of diabetes in Australia is rising, accounting for the third biggest cause of increased health loss between 1990 and 2019 and more than half of health loss in Australia is now due to chronic diseases and injury, which are both largely preventable.


Key findings:

Top 5 risk factors associated with highest number of deaths in Australia in 2019:

1. High blood pressure (25,500 deaths)

2. Dietary risks (e.g., low fruit, high salt) (21,600 deaths)

3. Tobacco use (20,100)

4. High body-mass index (18,700 deaths)

5. High fasting plasma glucose (17,700 deaths).


Top 5 leading risk factors for health loss in Australia in 2019:

1. Tobacco use

2. High body-mass index

3. High blood pressure

4. Dietary risks

5. High fasting plasma glucose.


“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,” said Heart Foundation General Manager of Heart Health, Bill Stavreski.


“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.


“These are risk factors that are largely preventable and treatable, like high blood pressure, smoking, poor diet and overweight and obesity. What’s more, several of these risk factors are 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.


“We’re also concerned to see that diabetes is one of the biggest contributors to increases in health loss in Australia in the last thirty years. People with diabetes are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people without diabetes.”


The Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) is published by The Lancet, 17 October 2020 and is available at -


18 October 2020.