ADULT HEALTH

This article is part of a comprehensive series released as The Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

KEY MESSAGES

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have poorer self-assessed health and were more likely to report higher levels of psychological distress than non-Indigenous Australians:
In 2008, 44% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over reported excellent/very good health and 22% reported fair/poor health.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to report fair/poor health. This gap has remained unchanged since 2002.
Nearly one-third (32%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years and over had experienced high/very high levels of psychological distress, which was more than twice the rate for non-Indigenous people.

Both tobacco smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are major health risk factors. Latest results show a decline in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking rates, while alcohol consumption remains steady:
Between 2002 and 2008, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander current daily smokers fell from 49% to 45%, representing the first significant decline in smoking rates since 1994. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remained twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to be current daily smokers.
Around one in six Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over (17%) drank alcohol at chronic risky/high risk levels, similar to the rate reported in 2002 (15%).

It is widely accepted that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience poorer health and higher rates of chronic disease than non-Indigenous people. The burden of disease suffered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is estimated to be two-and-a-half times greater than the burden of disease in the total Australian population. Health risk factors, such as smoking and alcohol misuse, explained over a third of this total burden for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and were responsible for almost half of the burden of disease gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians in 2003 (Endnote 1).

This article provides a range of information on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, drawing mostly on data from the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS).

Topics covered in this article include:

Health status
self-assessed health status — adults
psychological distress

Health risk factors
health risk factors and socioeconomic status
smoking
alcohol consumption
illicit substance use

Other related topics
adult health: Torres Strait Islander people (2011)
social and emotional wellbeing (2010)
prevalence of long term health conditions, see discussion on health conditions and illnesses (2008)
overweight/obesity (2008)
poor nutrition (2008)
physical inactivity (2008)
multiple risk factors (2008)

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ENDNOTE

1. Vos, T., Barker, B., Stanley, L., and Lopez, A. 2007, ‘The Burden of Disease and Injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2003’, School of Population Health, Brisbane, .

This page last updated 16 February 2011
Source: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/lookup/4704.0Chapter700Oct+2010

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