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‘It’ll be right’ or ‘bulletproof’ is a health mindset held by some of us. In this article, we unpack key findings into the prevalence, incidence, risk and cost burden of ill health in Australia.

Written and accurate as at: 12 Sep 2019

When accumulating wealth and funding your cost of living during your working years, one of your biggest resources is your capacity to earn an income, either through employment or self-employment.

When you are fit and healthy, you may sometimes take your financial and physical/mental health for granted. Or, in general, you may hold a more permanent ‘it’ll be right’ or ‘bulletproof’ mindset.

These states of mind often quickly change when you are confronted with an illness, especially one you are not prepared for. Moreover, this illness has the potential not to only affect you, but also your loved ones.

Importantly, the above also has relevance when considering your retirement years. For example, the impact an illness may have on your quality of life (financial and physical/mental health) in retirement.

 

The prevalence, incidence, risk and cost burden of ill health in Australia

A recent paper* sheds light on ill health in Australia by compiling the data on a range of health conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, brain and nervous system conditions, and mental health conditions.

More specifically, it details the prevalence and/or incidence of these health conditions, the risk that a person has of developing them, and the cost burden (both direct and indirect^) attached to each.

Below is a brief snapshot of several of the key findings.

Cancer

Cancer encompasses, for example, prostate cancer, breast cancer, bowel cancer, and melanoma skin cancer.

  • The average lifetime cost of cancer is $126,280 for those aged 15-64 (cancer sufferers).
  • There are 380 new cancer diagnoses per day; 40% of these people are aged 25-64.
  • 5 year survival rates for cancer can range from 16% (lung cancer) to 95% (prostate cancer).
  • Anticancer drugs not on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) can cost ≥$5,000 per month.
  • 1 in 3 men and 1 in 4 women will be affected by (diagnosed with) some type of cancer before age 75.

Depending on the circumstances, risk factors may include, for example, tobacco use/exposure, obesity, ultraviolet radiation, and physical inactivity.

Diseases of the heart and arteries

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) encompasses, for example, coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure.

  • 1 in 6 people will be affected by CVD.
  • The average lifetime cost of a stroke is $32,411.
  • There is 1 death every 12 minutes attributed to (due to) CVD.
  • There is 1 heart attack every 10 minutes, and there are 96 stroke events per day.
  • The average cost of a coronary angiography with stent insertion, including hospital stay, is $21,790.

Depending on the circumstances, risk factors may include, for example, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and physical inactivity.

Respiratory conditions

Respiratory conditions encompass, for example, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

  • The average cost of:
    • COPD is $9,020 per year,
    • asthma is $14,230 over a lifetime.
  • 5 year survival rates for COPD can be as low as 40%.
  • The average number of days off work per year are 10.4 days (asthma) and 14.4 days (COPD).
  • There are 8 deaths per week attributed to asthma, and 19 deaths per day attributed to COPD.
  • 1 in 9 people will be affected by asthma, and 1 in 13 people (aged 40+) will be affected by COPD.

Depending on the circumstances, risk factors may include, for example, tobacco use/exposure, occupational exposures, and air pollution.

Brain and nervous system conditions

Brain and nervous system conditions encompass, for example, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries (SCI).

  • The average cost/s of:
    • multiple sclerosis is $1,450 per month,
    • epilepsy is $3,510 per treatment,
    • Parkinson’s disease is $169,060 over 12 years,
    • dementia is $47,811 in the first year, and $14,842 each year thereafter,
    • SCI is $127,740 per year (healthcare, equipment and modifications, and long-term care).
  • 1 in 26 people will be affected by epilepsy during their lifetime.
  • There are 11 new quadriplegic events and 11 new paraplegic events per month.
  • The risk of being affected by dementia over a person’s lifetime can be as high as 17%.
  • 50% of people who were working before suffering a SCI* never return to the workforce.

Depending on the circumstances, risk factors may include, for example, age, family history, and injury.

Diabetes and kidney conditions

Diabetes and kidney conditions encompass, for example, diabetes (Type 1/2) and chronic kidney disease (CKD).

  • The average annual cost of:
    • CKD is $3,897,
    • diabetes is $2,341 (Type 1) and $1,220 (Type 2).
  • There are 9 deaths per day attributed to CKD.
  • Diabetes increases the risk of CVD, CKD and blindness.
  • There is a 40% chance of being affected by CKD after age 50.
  • The average number of days off work per year are 18 days (CKD) and 11.8 days (diabetes).

Depending on the circumstances, risk factors may include, for example, hypertension, diabetes, tobacco use/exposure, and obesity.

Musculoskeletal conditions

Musculoskeletal conditions encompass, for example, back problems and pain, arthritis, and osteoporosis.

  • The average cost of:
    • osteoarthritis is $1,220 per year,
    • osteoporosis is $1,155 per fracture,
    • rheumatoid arthritis is $2,189 per year,
    • back problems and pain is $6,096 per year.
  • The average number of days off work per year due to:
    • osteoarthritis is 72 days,
    • osteoporosis is 12 days,
    • rheumatoid arthritis is 38.4 days,
    • back problems and pain is 21.2 days.
  • There are 395 fractures per week due to osteoporosis.
  • 40% of forced retirements are due to back problems and arthritis.
  • 60% of people affected by musculoskeletal conditions are of working age (25-64 years).

Depending on the circumstances, risk factors may include, for example, age, family history, injury, obesity, and underweight (osteoporosis).

Vision disorders and blindness

Vision disorders and blindness encompass, for example, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and eye-related injuries.

  • Before age 85:
    • 1 in 6 people will be affected by blindness,
    • 1 in 3 people will be affected by vision impairment.
  • The average annual cost of a vision disorder or blindness is $5,760.
  • Loss of vision is a major cause of disability, impacting employment and daily living.
  • Older people with vision impairment may be more likely to require long-term care.
  • The risk of depression is 3 times higher in the visually impaired (compared to those who are not).

Depending on the circumstances, risk factors may include, for example, age, tobacco use/exposure, ultraviolet radiation, diabetes, and eye trauma.

Mental health conditions

Mental health conditions encompass, for example, affective disorders (depression), anxiety disorders (panic and post-traumatic stress disorder) and substance use disorders (alcohol/drug dependence).

  • The average annual cost of:
    • affective disorders is $184,
    • anxiety disorders is $190,
    • substance use disorders is $219.
  • The average number of days off work per year due to:
    • affective disorders is 75.4 days,
    • anxiety disorders is 53.5 days,
    • substance use disorders is 40.2 days.
  • 35% of people with depression or anxiety seek treatment.
  • 45.5% of people will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime.
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 15-44, and second for people aged 45-54.

Depending on the circumstances, risk factors may include, for example, family history, personality factors, comorbidities and ongoing stressful events.

If you have any questions regarding this article, please do not hesitate to contact us.

*Zurich. (2018). The cost of care: The missing link in strategic financial advice equation. Health Research Whitepaper.

^Indirect costs to the person, such as time spent off work and time spent travelling to and from medical appointments, as well as indirect costs to families and carers also pose a significant burden.