A new national report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) presents a mixed bag on favourable and unfavourable trends in chronic diseases over time.
The report, Indicators for chronic disease and their determinants, 2008, focuses on the 12 chronic conditions that represent a large burden of disease in Australia.
'The good news is that for the majority of indicators that we looked at over the last 10 to 20 years, there has been a favourable trend, or no apparent trend,' said Ilona Brockway, of the AIHW's Population Health Unit.
'For example there is no doubt that the incidence of heart attacks and deaths after heart attacks are trending downwards.'
'And daily smoking rates continue to decline so that, currently, under 20% of adults smoke daily,' she said.
'But there is not-so-good news on a few fronts. In contrast to the general good news on smoking, the report found that for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in non-remote areas of Australia, about half are daily smokers.
The report shows that bowel cancer incidence rates have risen in the last decade, to the point where it is the second most common cancer in Australians-but survival rates have been improving.
'And over the last 20 years, while lung cancer rates have decreased for males, they have increased for females,' Ms Brockway said.
Exercise is another area where the report showed significant room for improvement, with two-thirds of Australian adults not exercising enough to benefit their health.
The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians recommend that adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.
'The proportion of Australians reporting Type 2 diabetes has more than doubled in 10 years, from around 2% in 1995 to almost 5% in 2004-05, and rates of overweight or obese adults have also increased since 1995,' Ms Brockway said.
Obesity in males has increased from 11% to 18% and for females from 11% to 15% over the period 1995 to 2004-05.
In 2004-05, almost 60% of males and 40% of females were either overweight or obese.