Australia performs as well as, or better than many countries on a range of health and health care indicators. However, there are some areas where improvement can be made.

The interactive visualisation on this page compares Australia with other member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Data are for 2017 (or the nearest available year) (OECD 2019a, 2019b). The 36 OECD countries provide a useful comparison for Australia as most are considered to be developed countries with high-income economies. Some of the indicators presented here are reported nationally in the Australian Health Performance Framework.

How does Australia’s health compare with other OECD countries?

Click through the categories at the top of the visualisation to change the set of indicators.
 

Figure 1 is a dashboard that demonstrates Australia’s ranking among OECD member nations, and compared to the OECD average, in selected indicators. Australia’s ranking, the OECD average, and the range of values for each indicator are provided in text.

Health status

The health status of populations can be measured in a range of ways, such as by life expectancy, and rates of death and illness.

In 2017:

  • Life expectancy at birth for Australian females ranked seventh highest of 36 OECD countries at 84.6 years. Japan ranked highest at 87.3 years and Mexico ranked lowest at 77.9 years. The average among all OECD countries was 83.4 years.
  • Life expectancy at birth for Australian males ranked ninth highest of 36 OECD countries at 80.5 years, higher than the OECD average of 78.1 years. Switzerland ranked highest at 81.6 years and Latvia ranked lowest at 69.8 years.
  • In Australia 77 deaths per 100,000 population were due to coronary heart disease, below the OECD average of 115 deaths per 100,000 population. Australia ranked 14th lowest of 36 OECD countries. Japan had the lowest rate at 31 deaths per 100,000 population, and Lithuania had the highest rate at 383 deaths per 100,000 population (all rates are age-standardised).
  • The estimated prevalence of dementia in Australia was 14.6 per 1,000 population, close to the OECD average of 15.3 per 1,000 population and ranking 17th lowest of 36 OECD countries. Mexico had the lowest rate, half the Australian rate at 7.6 per 1,000 population, whereas Japan’s rate was considerably higher at 24.8 per 1,000 population.

For more information on these topics see How healthy are Australians?, Coronary heart disease and Dementia.

Determinants of health

Determinants of health are factors that influence health status, and include health behaviours and biomedical factors.

In 2017:

  • Australians consumed 9.4 litres of pure alcohol per year for each person aged 15 and over. This is higher than the OECD average of 8.9 litres per person and Australia ranked 17th highest (or 20th lowest) of 36 OECD countries. Turkey had the lowest rate at 1.4 litres per person, and Lithuania had the highest at 12.3 litres per person per year.
  • 3 in 10 (30%) Australians aged 15 and over were obese, higher than the OECD average of 24%, and the fifth highest (or 19th lowest) of 23 OECD countries for which data were available. Japan had the lowest rate at 4.4% and the United States had the highest at 40%.
  • 1 in 8 (12%) Australians aged 15 and over were daily smokers, the seventh lowest rate of 36 OECD countries. Mexico had the lowest rate of 7.6% and Greece had the highest rate of 27%. The OECD average was 18%.

For more information on these topics see Tobacco smoking, Alcohol risk and harm and Overweight and obesity.

Health system

A range of measures can be used to compare Australia’s health system internationally. When combined they can be used to form an impression of how Australia’s system performs relative to other countries.

In 2017:

  • Australia had the eighth highest health care expenditure at 9.2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) out of 36 OECD countries, higher than the OECD median of 8.1%. The lowest health expenditure was in Turkey at 4.2%, and the highest was in the United States at 16.2% of GDP (AIHW health expenditure database; OECD 2019a).
  • Australia had 3.7 practising doctors per 1,000 population, compared with the OECD average of 3.5 per 1,000 population. Australia ranked 14th highest of 36 OECD countries. The lowest rate was 1.9 per 1,000 population in Turkey, and the highest was 6.1 practising doctors per 1,000 population in Greece.
  • Australia had 12 practising nurses per 1,000 population, compared with the OECD average of 8.8. Australia ranked ninth highest of 36 OECD countries. The lowest rate was 2.1 per 1,000 population in Turkey, and the highest was 18 practising nurses per 1,000 population in Norway.
  • Australia had 3.8 hospital beds per 1,000 population, compared with the OECD average of 4.7. Australia ranked 18th highest of 36 OECD countries. The lowest rate was 1.4 per 1,000 population in Mexico, and the highest was 13 in Japan.
  • Australia had the third highest 5-year net survival rate for colon cancer of 32 OECD countries for which data were available, at 71%, while the OECD average was 62%. South Korea had the highest survival rate at 72%, and Chile had the lowest at 44%.

For more information on these topics see Health expenditure, Health workforce, Hospital care and Cancer.

Where do I go for more information?

For more information on international comparisons of health data, see:

Visit International comparisons for more on this topic.

References

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) 2019a. OECD health statistics 2019. Paris: OECD Publishing. Viewed 25 September 2019.

OECD 2019b. Health at a Glance 2019. Paris: OECD Publishing.