Every year in Australia, over a million years of life are lost because of premature deaths in the population. This loss is called the ‘fatal burden of disease’. Avoidable fatal burden is the fatal burden due to deaths among those aged under 75 that are considered avoidable given timely and effective health care.

In 2018, over half (55%) of the fatal burden in Australia was classified as avoidable. The proportion of avoidable fatal burden was higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (First Nations) people than for non-Indigenous Australians (64% and 54%, respectively).

Note that the reference year for this report is 2018 as this is the latest year for which Australian burden of disease estimates are available for First Nations people.

Avoidable fatal burden among First Nations people

Five causes accounted for over half (52%) of the total avoidable fatal burden (AYLL) among First Nations people:

  • coronary heart disease
  • suicide & self-inflicted injuries
  • poisoning
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • chronic kidney disease.

Leading causes of avoidable fatal burden differed across the life course:

  • Most of the avoidable fatal burden among First Nations children aged 0–14 was from infant & congenital conditions.
  • Among First Nations people aged 15–34, 4 of the top 5 causes were from injuries.
  • From age 35, chronic diseases began to feature as important causes of avoidable fatal burden, with coronary heart disease being the leading cause.
  • Chronic diseases dominated the leading causes from age 55 onwards.

Avoidable fatal burden in Indigenous Regions

Indigenous Regions (IREGs) are large geographical units that are part of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) (ABS 2016). IREGs do not cross state or territory borders and are defined to cover the whole of geographic Australia. Avoidable fatal burden data were analysed for the 37 IREGs for which mortality and population data were available.

  • The rate of avoidable fatal burden ranged from 32 AYLL per 1,000 people in Tasmania to 236 AYLL per 1,000 in Kununurra (in Western Australia).
  • Coronary heart disease was among the 3 leading causes of avoidable fatal burden in 36 of the 37 IREGs.
  • Suicide & self-inflicted injuries was among the 3 leading causes of avoidable fatal burden in 31 of the 37 IREGs.
  • Across IREGs, injuries were more prevalent among the top 5 causes of avoidable fatal burden for First Nations males, whereas chronic conditions were more dominant among the top 5 for First Nations females.