STUDY: Australians are living longer but not getting healthier

The overall life expectancy of Australians has increased but many are not getting healthier, according to a study by the Global Burden of Disease Project.

Statistics from the World Health Organisation last year revealed that Australian men had the third-highest life expectancy in the world, living up to 80.5 years on average. Australian women were still out-living their male counterparts with 84.6 years.

However, according to the latest study, Australians are spending increasingly more time in ill health. Lower back pain is the most common condition forcing older Australians out of the work force.

That’s not surprising considering up to 80% of Australians experience back pain with 10% having a significant disability as a result, the Medical Journal of Australia reports.

The study — which analysed acute and chronic diseases and injuries in 188 countries — also found that major depressive disorders, migraines and anxiety disorders were among the top ten leading causes of ill health for Australians.

“The health of Australians is increasingly threatened by non-fatal ailments like back and neck pains, and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety,” said UNSW Professor and co-author of the study Louisa Degenhardt.

“At the same time, deadly diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes are also costing Australians many years of healthy life. It is critical that we understand which diseases and injuries are causing disability so that we can effectively allocate resources.”

Australia’s increasingly sedentary lifestyle can be partly blamed.

On average, more than 75% of the office workday is spent sitting, often in unbroken bouts of at least 30 minutes.

“Contemporary offices may be failing to provide a safe system of work,” said Professor Leon Straker, professor of physiotherapy at Curtin University in Perth.

“What ails you isn’t necessarily what kills you,” said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray.

“As nonfatal illnesses and related ailments affect more people of all ages, countries must look closely at health policy and spending to target these conditions.”

Here are the 10 leading causes of ill health in Australia.

1. Lower back pain
2. Major depressive disorder
3. Other musculoskeletal disorders
4. Neck pain
5. Migraine
6. Anxiety disorders
7. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
8. Asthma
9. Age-related and other hearing loss
10. Diabetes

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