Australian men have a higher risk of dying early from chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart and lung disease compared to men in Bahrain, South Korea and Iceland, a global analysis has revealed.
The research, published in The Lancet in recent days, found that a 30-year-old man in Australia had an 11 per cent chance of dying from a chronic disease before his 70th birthday, behind Iceland at 9.9 per cent, and both South Korea and Bahrain at 10.9 per cent.
A 30-year-old woman from Australia in 2016 had a 7.2 per cent chance of dying from a chronic condition before age 70, compared to 4.7 per cent in South Korea, and 6.4 per cent in Spain.
The problem is even more far-reaching when deaths from mental health conditions were taken into account, with suicides accounting for almost 800,000 global deaths.
Suicide rates in men from Australia were higher than in men from parts of north Africa, the Middle East and Brazil, according to the analysis.
Overall, Australia ranks better than other high-income countries, coming in at 7th for men and 8th for women, compared to the UK (which ranked 17th for men and 27th for women), and the US (53rd for men, 44th for women).
The risk of dying from chronic conditions is highest in low-income and middle-income countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, for both men and women, and in central Asia and eastern Europe for men.
Australia set to fall behind 2030 target
Though Australian mortality rates are low compared to most countries, progress has been slow throughout the region and Australians will miss the target by 10 years, the authors said.
Of the 186 nations included in the analysis, only 30-35 countries are likely to meet the United Nations target for reducing premature deaths from non-communicable diseases.
Denmark, Brazil, Iran, New Zealand, Norway and South Korea are some of the countries on track.
Meanwhile, Australia, France, Germany, the UK, India and China will fail to hit the target for both men and women by 2030.
Led by the Imperial College London, World Health Organisation and NCD Alliance, the researchers predicted that Australian women will meet the chronic disease target after 2040, while men will hit their target between 2031 and 2040.
Chronic diseases at all-time high
The authors said that, in most countries, people are more likely to die from a chronic condition than from infectious diseases, maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions combined.
“Non-communicable diseases are the main cause of premature death for most countries,” senior author, Professor Majid Ezzati from Imperial College London, said.
“Poverty, uncontrolled marketing of alcohol and tobacco by multinational industries, and weak health care systems are making chronic diseases a larger danger to human health than traditional foes such as bacteria and viruses,” Professor Ezzati said.
Globally, around 7 out of 10 deaths are caused by non-communicable diseases, with more than one third (17 million) of these deaths occurring before the age of 70.
— NCD Alliance (@ncdalliance) March 28, 2018
Katie Dain, CEO of the NCD Alliance said governments and political leaders are now “on notice” to meet targets in their region.
“We are sleepwalking into a sick future because of severely inadequate progress on non-communicable diseases.”
“Even those governments who appear to be on track cannot be complacent – they must remain vigilant and respond with effective policies to emerging threats to health of the next generation, including child obesity, air pollution and the ever evolving tactics of the tobacco and alcohol industries,” she said.
In 2015, the UN set the goal of a one-third reduction in premature deaths from four common chronic conditions – cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes – by the year 2030.
The researchers published their findings ahead of a key UN meeting to discuss the 2030 target, which kicked off on September 27.