Development of a new National Women’s Health Policy Consultation Discussion Paper 2009

5.1.2 Differences in the leading causes of death and burden of disease

Page last updated: 20 April 2009

The leading causes of death and burden of disease in Australia demonstrate that there are differences in the types and prevalence of conditions experienced by women and men, for example:71

· Anxiety and depression ­the first or second leading causes of burden of disease for females in the age groups spanning 0­64 years, and females experience more than double the burden of males in each of these groups. The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health has found that the most common claim on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for the youngest cohort, 30­35 years, is for antidepressants.72

  • Asthma ­ the leading cause of burden of disease in the 0­14 age group for both females and males, but asthma remains the fourth highest cause for women aged 15­44 years (while it drops out of the top 10 for males).
  • Breast cancer ­ the fifth highest cause of death and a major cause of burden of disease in the 15­74 age groups (the leading cause in the 45­64 years age group) but is far less commonly experienced by males.
  • Cardiovascular disease (including coronary heart disease and stroke) ­ contributes to over 50 per cent of all female deaths, and women are 10 per cent more likely to suffer from it than men.73, 74
  • Dementia and Alzheimer's disease ­ the third ranked cause of death in females (eighth for males) and the fifth ranked contributor to the burden of disease in females but does not appear in the top 10 for males.
  • Migraine ­ the second highest contributor to the burden of disease in the 15­44 year age group but does not appear in the top 10 for males.
  • Osteoarthritis ­ the seventh most frequently managed problem by general practitioners in Australia in 2003­04. Nearly 10 per cent of female respondents in the 2004­05 National Health Survey reported osteoarthritis, compared with 6.1 per cent of males.75
  • Osteoporosis ­ In the 2004­05 National Health Survey, 14 per cent of females aged 60­69, 22 per cent of female respondents aged 70­79 and 29 per cent of females aged 80 and over, reported osteoporosis compared to 2 per cent, 5 per cent and 5 per cent of males in the three age groups respectively.76