Disadvantaged Australians are on average dying 27 years earlier than their more affluent peers, research has shown.
In a detailed analysis of government data, the Public Health Information Development Unit (PHIDU) at Torrens University in Adelaide has laid bare the stark differences in health outcomes across different locations and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Led by Professor John Glover, the study found that disadvantaged Australians suffered the highest rates of obesity, smoking, asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and psychological distress.
And while the median age of death is 89 years in Australia’s most affluent areas, it averages just 62 years across the country’s lower socioeconomic regions.
Professor Glover told the ABC the gap in health quality across different socioeconomic backgrounds had been widening since the early 1990s.
For example, the gap in premature mortality rates – defined as the number of people dying before the age of 75 – between Australians living in the most disadvantaged and most advantaged areas has more than doubled.
“These public health figures disturbingly reveal, yet again, the poorer health outcomes for people in our community who are most disadvantaged,” he said.
“Although the rates of chronic disease and health risks are estimates, they are based on the best available data and indicate the magnitude of the differences in health status that exist in Australia.”
The study found roughly a quarter of Australians (24.6 per cent) living in affluent areas were obese, compared to 38.5 per cent in disadvantaged areas.
The average smoking rate was 8.5 per cent in affluent areas and 24.3 per cent in disadvantaged areas, while the incidence of asthma was 10 per cent in well-off neighbourhoods and 13.4 per cent in lower socioeconomic neighbourhoods.
A sizeable geographical variation was observed in the incidence rate of cardiovascular disease, too.
Affluent areas recorded an incidence rate of 4 per cent, while lower socioeconomic backgrounds recorded a rate of 5.5 per cent.
The study also found that Australia’s overall obesity rate has hit a new record high.
PHIDU’s analysis comes after global charity group Oxfam announced the richest 1 per cent of Australians had amassed more than twice as much wealth as the bottom 50 per cent combined.
Oxfam attributed the gap to the greater financial return placed on assets relative to labour, in addition to corporate tax avoidance, stagnant wages, insufficient public spending and a winding back of Australia’s progressive taxation system.
“This is a new phenomenon – where the number of billionaires continues to increase and amass wealth that they can’t possibly hope to spend, while average community members are seeking basic support,” Oxfam Australia Lyn Morgain told The New Daily.
“This is not just accepting that some people will be richer than others. This is a population-wide trend that is very worrying, not just for the very poor but, in fact, for the middle.”