WE’RE living longer, surviving cancer and fewer of us are dying from heart disease but our bad habits are to blame for the diseases that are killing us.
A comprehensive snapshot of the nation’s health has also sadly found that suicide, not cancer or heart disease, is the leading cause of death of both men and women aged 15-44.
There were 2535 deaths from suicide in 2012 and 200 people attempt suicide every day.
Lifeline says suicides have reached a 10-year peak and the crisis support agency has answered more than 64,000 calls from help-seekers so far this year, up 14 per cent on last year.
Accidental poisoning was the second most common cause of death for men aged 25-44 and the third biggest killer of women of this age.
This includes deaths caused by medications, pesticides, gases and other chemicals.
But promisingly, Australians are now living on average 25 years longer than a century ago according to Australia’s Health, a biannual government report on the nation’s well-being.
It found a boy born today can expect to live to 79.9 years and a girl to 84.
More people are surviving cancer with two thirds of cancer patients surviving five years past their diagnosis in 2006-2010 compared with just 47 per cent in the mid-1980s.
There was also a 20 per cent fall in heart attack rates between 2007 and 2011 and strokes fell 25 per cent between 1997 and 2009.
Improved immunisation rates and medical advances mean infectious diseases are killing fewer of us.
Meanwhile chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease now cause 90 per cent of all death and disability.
These diseases can be traced back to the health risks caused by our bad habits such as smoking, physical inactivity, poor nutrition and harmful use of alcohol, the report says.
Smoking rates have fallen but one in six people still smoke daily, 63 per cent of adults are overweight or obese and only 8 per cent of adults eat enough vegetables.
Almost one in two young adults are at risk of harm from drinking more than four standard drinks on a single occasion and just over two in five adults are sufficiently active to meet the recommended guidelines.
“We know that across all ages, changes in health behaviours can reduce the impact of chronic diseases — the World Health Organisation estimates that, worldwide, up to 80 per cent of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, and up to one third of cancers, could be prevented by eliminating smoking, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol,” Australian Institute of Health and Welfare director David Kalisch said.
More than one in three Australians has at least one of the following chronic conditions: asthma, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, arthritis, osteoporosis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, depression or high blood pressure.
Around 360,000 or 1.6 per cent of the population are living with cancer, almost one million (4.6%) are living with diabetes, and more than 1 million (5.0%) have heart or vascular disease, or have suffered a stroke.
In 2012, young males accounted for three-quarters of road transport accident deaths involving young people but road deaths are actually declining.
In 2012, there were 272 road deaths for the 15—24 age group, a rate of nine per 100,000, which is a substantial fall from 34 per 100,000 rate of 1989 when there were 928 fatalities.
Health Minister Peter Dutton seized on the report to justify the government’s controversial $ 7 GP fee.
Growth on health spending had surged by 5.4 per cent per year in the past decade, far outstripping growth in the broader economy, which has only been growing at 3.1 per cent, he said.
“By asking people to make a modest $ 7 contribution to the cost of their own healthcare, we’re in a much stronger position to safeguard our health system from collapsing under its own weight.”
Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said the report “highlights the danger of Tony Abbott’s health cuts, showing that in 2011 chronic diseases accounted for 90 per cent of all deaths.”
“The best way to prevent chronic illness and to treat chronic illness is through GPs. Tony Abbott’s plan to introduce a GP Tax will create a barrier to Australians seeing their doctor and make this situation worse,” she said.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Brian Owler disputed Mr Dutton’s claims health spending data in the report supported $ 7 GP fee.
“We’re actually seeing a fall in the proportion the federal government is spending on health care,” he said.
“ If you look at 2006-07 it was 18.1 per cent of the federal budget went on health, I think last year it was down to 16.13 per cent,” he said.
Anyone experiencing a personal crisis should seek help from Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24/7) or www.lifeline.org/crisischat (8pm-4am AEST)