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One in nine Australian women aged 40–44 has endometriosis


Morgan Liotta


29/08/2019 3:41:25 PM

A new AIHW report has shed light on women living with endometriosis, but there are fears the numbers may actually be much higher.

One in nine women
As many as one in nine Australian women aged 40–44 have endometriosis, according to the new AIHW report.

Almost 11% (one in nine) of women aged 40–44 and 7% of women aged 25–29 have endometriosis, according to the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report, Endometriosis in Australia: Prevalence and hospitalisations.
 
The report provides new insights into the historically under-recognised condition and includes the most recent estimates of endometriosis prevalence in Australia.
 
Based on national data from health services and the large Australian longitudinal study on women’s health, researchers at the University of Queensland estimated the prevalence of endometriosis in women born in:

  • 1973–78, with data available up until age 40–44
  • 1989–95, with data available up until age 25–29.
Prevalence of the condition was found to be 1.7 times higher for women born in 1989–95, who were diagnosed with endometriosis by age 25–29 (6.6%), compared with women born in 1973–78 at the same age (4%).
 
This recent increase may indicate a greater awareness of endometriosis among the general public and health professionals, leading to increased diagnosis and reporting of diagnosis among women born more recently.
 
According to the report, endometriosis cost an estimated $7.4 billion in Australia in 2017–18, mostly through reduced quality of life and productivity losses.
 
However, the AIHW states that this may be an underestimate due to under-diagnosis and difficulties in diagnosing the condition.
 
Endometriosis can take an average of seven years to diagnose from the first onset of symptoms, and diagnosis and management can be complex. There is currently no known cure. 
 
The Federal Government last year launched the National Action Plan for Endometriosis, aimed to provide improved diagnosis, management and finding a cure.
 
There were around 34,200 endometriosis-related hospitalisations in Australia in 2016–17, with almost four in five (79%) of these among females aged 15–44, with the most common age group being 30–39.
 
Endometriosis-related hospitalisations were more likely to be partly or fully funded by private health insurance (57%), compared with all other hospitalisations for females (43%).
 
Compared with all hospitalisations for females, endometriosis-related hospitalisations were also twice as likely to be self-funded (7.9% compared with 3.6%), and more likely to be in private hospitals (62% compared with 42%).
 
An estimated one in three (35%) endometriosis-related hospitalisations were for public patients.
 
AIHW spokesperson Claire Sparke said the most common hospital procedures included diagnostic hysteroscopy to examine inside the uterus, and dilation and curettage of the uterus – where the lining of the uterus is scraped away.
 
However, Ms Sparke specified that data on hospitalisations in this report are ‘likely to reflect the more severe cases, and do not account for all incidences of endometriosis’.
 
‘Future information is needed on primary care, specialist care, pharmaceutical treatment, and emergency department care,’ she said.



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