The disease burden due to risk factors is known as attributable burden. It is the amount by which disease burden would be reduced if exposure to the risk factor had been avoided or reduced to the lowest possible exposure. Deaths can also be attributed to risk factors using the same methods.
The Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018, published in 2021, estimated the disease burden and deaths due to 40 risk factor components or exposures (such as cannabis use) that combine into 20 individual risk factors (such as illicit drug use). The risk factors are categorised into 4 groups: behavioural, dietary, metabolic/biomedical and environmental. Risk factors included in this interactive web report are listed below.
This interactive report provides dynamic data displays of attributable burden and attributable deaths in Australia as part of the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018.
The available estimates include:
- Non-fatal, fatal and total attributable burden estimates by age, sex and linked disease for 2018, and for most risk factors for 2003, 2011 and 2015
- Attributable deaths estimates by sex for 2003, 2011, 2015 and 2018
- Attributable burden estimates by socioeconomic group for selected risk factors in 2015 and 2018.
Risk factor estimates for a particular disease cannot simply be added together as they are estimated independently, with some risk factors being on the same causal pathway. Further information on estimating PAFs and the data and methods used in the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018 can be found in the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018: methods and supplementary material report. Further information on how to interpret specific measures in the visualisations is shown when hovering over the information icons on available pages.
Data visualisations displaying estimates of disease burden are available in the interactive web report: Interactive data on disease burden.
- Alcohol use
- Bullying victimisation
- Child abuse & neglect
- Illicit drug use
- Opioid use
- Amphetamine use
- Cocaine use
- Cannabis use
- Other illicit drug use
- Unsafe injecting practices
- Intimate partner violence
- Physical inactivity
- Tobacco use
- Unsafe sex
- Diet high in processed meat
- Diet high in red meat
- Diet high in sodium
- Diet high in sugar sweetened beverages
- Diet low in fish & seafood
- Diet low in fruit
- Diet low in legumes
- Diet low in milk
- Diet low in nuts and seeds
- Diet low in polyunsaturated fat
- Diet low in vegetables
- Diet low in whole grains & high fibre cereals
Leading risk factors
Around 38% of the burden of disease in Australia in 2018 could have been prevented by reducing exposure to all the modifiable risk factors included in the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018. This estimate has taken into account the complex pathways and interactions between diseases and risk factors.
The leading five risk factors contributing to total burden were: tobacco use, overweight (including obesity), all dietary risks, high blood pressure and alcohol use.
Tobacco use contributed the greatest amount of fatal burden and deaths in Australia while overweight (including obesity) contributed the most non-fatal burden in both males and females.
The burden attributable to most (14 out of 20) risk factors was higher in males than in females; with the exception of bullying victimisation, child abuse & neglect, low bone mineral density, unsafe sex, iron deficiency and intimate partner violence (only estimated in females).
This interactive data visualisation shows the leading risk factors by attributable burden. The main section shows a horizontal bar graph which can be customised to report data according to sex, year and measure of attributable burden.
Changes in leading risk factors over time
Attributable burden was estimated for the years 2003, 2011, 2015 and 2018 for selected risk factors. Due to lack of suitable data, air pollution was estimated in 2015 and 2018 only; high blood plasma glucose levels in 2011, 2015 and 2018 only; and low birth weight and short gestation in 2018 only.
For risk factors where data was available over time, the risk factors contributed 37% of the total burden in Australia in 2003 compared with 35% in 2018. This decrease demonstrates a small improvement in the amount of health loss attributable to modifiable risk factors.
Tobacco use, overweight (including obesity), all dietary risks and high blood pressure were consistently the leading 4 risk factors in each of the years of 2003, 2011, 2015 and 2018. High blood pressure decreased from the 2nd highest risk factor in 2003 to the 4th highest in 2018, whereas the reverse was seen in overweight (including obesity) rankings— moving from the 4th highest risk factor in 2003 to the 2nd highest risk factor in 2018.
There were decreases between 2003 and 2018 in the age-standardised rate of total burden attributable to risk factors for high cholesterol by 53%, for high blood pressure by 49%, for dietary risks by 42%, for physical inactivity by 34%, and for tobacco use by 32%. Decreases in burden from cardiovascular diseases linked to these risk factors contributed to the decrease in rate of attributable burden.
In females, child abuse & neglect ranked high (6th in 2018) compared with males (not in the 10 leading risk factors in 2018). Conversely, occupational exposures & hazards ranked higher in males compared with females (ranked 9th and not in the 10 leading risk factors in 2018, respectively).
When looking at non-fatal burden, overweight (including obesity) and tobacco use were consistently the leading 2 risk factors in the years 2003, 2011, 2015 and 2018. High blood glucose ranked 5th in 2015, and 6th in 2011 and 2018, however was not included in the rankings for 2003 due to lack of suitable data.
In males, alcohol use, occupational exposures & hazards and illicit drug use ranked higher for non-fatal burden (2nd, 5th and 6th respectively in 2018) compared with females. Intimate partner violence ranked 6th for non-fatal burden in 2018, however this risk factor was only estimated in females due to lack of suitable data in males.
When looking at the number of deaths attributable to risk factors, tobacco use, overweight (including obesity), dietary risks and high blood pressure consistently contributed the most in Australia across all years, for both males and females.
Tab 1: This interactive data visualisation shows the ranking of risk factors by amount of attributable burden. The main section shows these rankings by year which can be customised to report data according to sex and measure of attributable burden.
Tab 2: This interactive data visualisation shows the ranking of risk factors by rate of attributable burden. The main section shows these rankings by year which can be customised to report data according to sex and measure of attributable burden.