A major cause of illness and death

CVD is a leading contributor to the burden of disease, and a leading cause of death among Australian women.

What is burden of disease?

Burden of disease analysis is useful to measure the impact of different diseases, conditions, injuries, and risk factors on a population. It uses information from various sources to quantify the fatal and non-fatal effects of these diseases.

In 2015, CVD accounted for 12% of the total burden of disease and injury among Australian women— ranking fourth behind cancer, musculoskeletal conditions, and mental and substance use disorders (Figure 1).

Coronary heart disease was responsible for 5.0% of the total burden—greater than any other specific disease—and stroke accounted for 2.9%.

Figure 1: Leading contributors to the total burden of disease, by disease group, 2015 (%)

Figure 1: Leading contributors to the total burden of disease, by disease group, 2015 (%25)

Source: AIHW 2019, based on analyses of the Australian Burden of Disease Database 2015.

The vast majority (78%) of the CVD burden for women in 2015 was fatal—that is, it was due to premature death. As a disease group, CVD was the second leading cause of fatal burden, behind cancer.

The other 22% was non-fatal—the burden from living with ill health caused by CVD. CVD was the fifth largest cause of non-fatal disease burden for women, behind musculoskeletal conditions, mental and substance use disorders, respiratory diseases, and neurological conditions.

Despite its contribution to the total burden of disease in Australia, the CVD burden fell by 37% among women between 2003 and 2015. There were similar falls for coronary heart disease (47%) and stroke (41%).

Deaths from cardiovascular disease

Of the 76,600 females who died in Australia in 2016, 22,200 (29%) died from CVD. CVD caused more female deaths than any other disease group.

In 2016, coronary heart disease (11%) and cerebrovascular diseases (mostly stroke, 8.0%) were 2 of the top 3 leading specific causes of female deaths (along with dementia and Alzheimer disease, which accounted for 11% of female deaths).