Risk factors for chronic kidney disease

What is a risk factor?

Risk factors are attributes, characteristics or exposures that increase the likelihood of a person developing a disease or health disorder.

Behavioural risk factors are health-related behaviours that individuals have the most ability to modify. Behavioural risk factors may impact chronic kidney disease include smoking, poor diet, insufficient physical activity and excess alcohol consumption.

Biomedical risk factors are bodily states that have an impact on a person’s risk of disease. Some biomedical risk factors can be influenced by health behaviours. Others, such as type 1 diabetes, occur independently of behaviours. Biomedical risk factors for chronic kidney disease include:

Fixed risk factors cannot be modified. Fixed risk factors for chronic kidney disease include:

Other non-traditional risk factors such as use of certain medications, kidney stones, foetal and maternal factors, infections, and environmental factors are increasingly being recognised as threats to kidney health (Luyckx et al. 2017).

For most behavioural and biomedical risk factors there is no known threshold at which risk begins. The relationship between risk and disease is continuous – there is an increasing effect as exposure to the risk factor increases. Having multiple risk factors further escalates risk.

Controlling or managing modifiable risk factors can help reduce the risk of chronic kidney disease. The progression of chronic kidney disease can also be slowed by controlling modifiable risk factors and by appropriate disease treatment and management.

This section presents statistics on 5 key risk factors that increase the risk of a person developing chronic kidney disease (CKD) – diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, overweight and obesity, and smoking (KHA 2020).


KHA (Kidney Health Australia) (2020) Risk factors of kidney disease, Kidney Health Australia, accessed 1 September 2021.

Luyckx VA, Tuttle KR, Garcia-Garcia G, Gharbi MB, Heerspink HJL, Johnson DW et al. (2017) Reducing major risk factors for chronic kidney disease, Kidney International Supplements, 7(2):71–87, doi: 10.1016/j.kisu.2017.07.003.