More than 8m Australians have a long-term health condition: Census

Matt Woodley

28/06/2022 1:55:46 PM

New Census data reinforces the college’s longstanding call for more general practice support, the RACGP’s Vice President says.

Map of Australia.
Mental health concerns, arthritis and asthma are the three most common long-term conditions in Australia.

More than 2.2 million Australians reported having a mental health condition on Census night in 2021.
The nationwide survey, which for the first time collected information on diagnosed long-term health conditions, also found that more that 2.1 million Australians live with arthritis, while 2.06 million have asthma.
Overall, almost 4.8 million people reported having one of the 10 long-term health conditions listed on the Census form, while nearly 1.5 million had two of these health conditions and over 750,000 (772,142) had three or more of these long-term health conditions.
A further one million respondents indicated that they had at least one other long-term health condition that was not listed on the form.
RACGP Vice President Dr Bruce Willett says the Census data back up what the college has been saying for many years.
‘These are stark figures that should concern governments across Australia,’ he said.
‘The RACGP has been warning for quite some time that we must have a sustainable health system capable of managing an ageing population, a mental health crisis, and a rising number of people with chronic illness and other serious health problems.
‘That is why it is so important that governments boost investment in general practice care ... the Census data tells us loud and clear that the time to act is now.’
Unsurprisingly, the proportion of people with a long-term health condition contained in the Census increased with age. More than three out of every five (62.9%) people aged 65 or older reported having at least one long-term health condition compared with one out of every five (22.1%) among 15–34-year-olds.
Females were more likely to report a long-term health condition than males, with 33.9% of females having one or more long-term health conditions compared with 29.5% of males.
Males most commonly reported asthma and mental health conditions, while females reported arthritis and mental health issues as the most common long-term health conditions.
Dr Willett said there are several measures governments could institute that would have a significant impact on long-term patient outcomes and relieve pressure across the entire healthcare system.
‘We are calling for a 10% increase to Medicare rebates for Level C [and D] consultations … as well as introducing a new Medicare item for longer consultations lasting more than 60 minutes,’ he said.
‘This will allow GPs to spend more time with patients and really get to the bottom of what is going on, something that is particularly helpful for people with mental health concerns.
‘Medicare rebates simply have not kept pace with the cost of providing high-quality care. With some eight million people reporting a long-term health condition that must change now, we have no time to lose.’
The RACGP Vice President also said new service incentive payments to provide regular and preventive care for older patients, people with mental health conditions and those with a disability, would make a big difference, especially in rural and remote communities.
‘The solutions to improving our health system and helping the many millions of people who report a long-term health condition are right in front of us, we just need the conviction to follow through and deliver on the reforms that will make such a difference for patient care across Australia,’ he said.
‘We have a new [Federal] Government and it’s time to properly recognise general practice and give us the support we need. Otherwise, the next Census and the one after that will reveal even more troubling health data.’
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