Most Common Chronic Illnesses Australia

Chronic diseases are long lasting conditions with persistent effects. Their social and economic consequences can impact on peoples’ quality of life. Chronic conditions are becoming increasingly common and are a priority for action in the health sector.

Many people with chronic conditions do not have a single, predominant condition, but rather they experience multimorbidity—the presence of 2 or more chronic conditions in a person at the same time.

According to the National Health Survey, the most common chronic conditions affecting Australians in 2017–18 were:

  • Mental and behavioural conditions – 4.8 million people (20.1%)
  • Back problems – 4.0 million people (16.4%)
  • Arthritis – 3.6 million people (15.0%)
  • Asthma – 2.7 million people (11.2%)
  • Diabetes mellitus – 1.2 million people (4.9%)
  • Heart, stroke and vascular disease –1.2 million people (4.8%)
  • Osteoporosis – 924,000 people (3.8%)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – 598,800 people (2.5%)
  • Cancer – 432,400 people (1.8%)
  • Kidney disease – 237,800 people (1.0%)

Risk factors

There are many things that affect your risk of developing a chronic condition. We call these ‘risk factors’.

Risk factors fall into 2 main groups:

  1. Ones you can change (for example, smoking, drinking, being overweight, not being physically active)
  2. Ones you can’t change (for example, age, gender, genes you’ve inherited)

Having risk factors increases the chance of you getting a chronic condition. Changing the risk factors you do have control over can help you prevent some chronic conditions.

The following risk factors commonly affect Australians:

Reducing these risk factors in your own life can help keep you healthier for longer.

Sources & for further information:

Chronic disease Overview – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare ( +

Chronic conditions in Australia | Australian Government Department of Health +

Use Tables and Graphs from Health Reports – HSC PDHPE

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