The life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians can be mainly attributed to chronic diseases, a new report has found.
But while some inroads have been made into the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the report says there is still a long way to go.
The health and welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: an overview 2011 has been produced by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The report says life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is currently estimated to be 12 years for men and 10 years for women.
It shows about 80% of the mortality gap can be attributed to chronic diseases, most significantly heart diseases (22%), followed by diabetes (12%) and liver diseases (11%).
Institute spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman says the good news is much of this chronic disease is potentially preventable. “In order to close the gap on life expectancy we need to improve (1) the social determinants of health, including income and education (2) health behaviour and (3) access to health services,” Dr Al-Yaman says.
The report has some other positive findings for Indigenous Australians:
- the proportion of Indigenous people who were daily smokers dropped from 49% to 45% between 2002 and 2008.
- In education, Indigenous Australians aged 25-34 years completed more schooling than those aged 55 years and over and Year 12 retention rates for Indigenous students rose from 29% in 1996 to 47% in 2010.
- In housing, between 1994 and 2008 – the proportion of Indigenous households who were home owners or buyers rose from 26% to 32%, and between 2002 and 2008 – the proportion of Indigenous households living in dwellings with structural problems fell from 34% to 26%.