At a glance
- In 2018, the standardised total burden rate was double (2.1 times higher) for First Nations Queenslanders that of other Queenslanders. This difference was slightly greater nationally (2.3 times).
- Mental health and substance use disorders were the leading cause of health burden, and cancers the leading cause of death.
- Health loss due to disability was greater than health loss due to premature death for First Nations Queenslanders due to reductions in fatal outcomes over a number of years.
- Nationally, the age-adjusted gap in total burden narrowed between First Nations peoples and other Australians by 15.6% in the 15 years up to 2018. It was similar in Queensland, with 15.7% in the same time period.
Estimates of burden of disease for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in Australia for 2018 were produced as part of the Australian Burden of Disease Study (ABDS) released by Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).1 While state-level data were limited, it did include critical information to assist in policy and planning within Queensland to improve the health of First Nations peoples.
Burden of disease is a complex analytical method to measure the gap between the ideal of everyone living to old age in good health and people’s experience of illness and early death. The methods are summarised on the Burden of Disease section of this report with detailed information available from the AIHW.1
This section uses age-standardised rates (ASRs or standardised rates) of health burden to adjust for age differences between the age distributions between First Nations peoples and others.
Burden of disease
Health loss due to premature death
The leading causes of fatal burden for First Nations Queenslanders in 2018 were injuries (23.6% of total), cancer (21.2%), cardiovascular disease (17.2%) and infant/congenital conditions (10.6%). Standardised fatal burden rates have diminished in recent years, by 26.8% nationally since 2003 and by 20.3% in Queensland since 2011.1
The standardised fatal burden rate for First Nations peoples was 2.2 times the rate for other Queenslanders. The leading contributors to the fatal burden gap in 2018 were cardiovascular disease, accounting for 22.7% of the gap, cancers (18.9%), injuries (15.0%) and kidney and urinary diseases (9.1%).1
Health loss due to disability
The leading causes of disability burden for First Nations Queenslanders in 2018 were mental and substance use disorders (42.7% of total), musculoskeletal conditions (13.8%), respiratory (8.8%), neurological (5.3%), hearing and vision loss (4.8%) and oral health (4.0%).1
The standardised disability burden rate for First Nations peoples was 2.0 times the rate for other Queenslanders in 2018. The leading contributors to the disability burden gap for First Nations Queenslanders in 2018 were mental and substance use disorders (42.6% of the disability gap), musculoskeletal (10.6%), respiratory (10.3%) and hearing and vision loss (8.5%).1
Mental and substance use disorders were the leading broad cause of total burden for First Nations Queenslanders in 2018 (23.9%) for both males and females (Table 1). This is consistent with the 2011 results. The ranking of other causes however differed, with injury ranked 2nd for males and cancers for females.2
Table 1: Health burden by and causes of death by broad cause for First Nations Queenslanders, 2018
|Disease group||DALYs||% of total|
|Disease group||DALYs||% of total|
|Disease group||DALYs||% of total|
Health loss by select specific causes
Due to small numbers and other limitations, jurisdictional estimates are not available for specific conditions. Nationally, the five leading specific causes for health loss (DALY) in 2018 for First Nations peoples were coronary heart disease (5.8%), anxiety disorders (5.3%), suicide and self-inflicted injuries (4.6%), alcohol use disorders (4.4%) and depressive disorders (4.3%).1
In 2018, the standardised burden rate for First Nations Queenslanders was 4.4% lower than the First Nations peoples national rate and was the lowest among the four jurisdictions with reportable data primarily due to lower rates of fatal health loss (Figure 1).1
Figure 1: Standardised burden rate for First Nations peoples by selected jurisdictions, 2018
|Year||State||Sex||Measure||Rate per 1,000|
There has been some improvement over the seven years since 2011, when the Queensland rate was 2.8% higher than the national rate, and second lowest after New South Wales.1
Remoteness and sociodemographic differences
For First Nations Australians in 2018, the standardised rate of health loss for those living in remote and very remote areas was 23.8% to 25.2% higher (respectively) than those living in major cities. Most of the health loss was associated with premature death, with negligible difference in disability burden rates. In 2011, the standardised burden rate in remote/very remote areas was about double that in major cities (2.2 times higher in remote areas and 1.6 times higher in very remote areas). This indicates that inequities for First Nations peoples due to remoteness may be diminishing although greater effort to reduce burden from premature death is needed.1
In contrast, the socioeconomic difference in burden rate for First Nations Australians increased between 2011 and 2018. Standardised burden rates in areas of greatest socioeconomic disadvantage were 3.6 times those in least disadvantaged areas in 2018, while in 2011 there was a 2.5-fold difference.2
One-in-four First Nations Australians (26.6%) lived in areas of greater socioeconomic disadvantage while nearly half (48.9%) live in areas of less disadvantage.1 Concerted effort is required improve health outcomes in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage, in all areas including major cities, remote and regional areas.
The gap in health loss
The standardised burden rate for First Nations Queenslanders was 2.1 times that of other Queenslanders, having reduced slightly from 2.2 times in 2011.
The gap in health outcomes between First Nations Queenslanders and others can be measured using rate ratios. Nationally this gap narrowed by 15.6%, a small but significant improvement.1
This gap changes over the life course and is generally better for children and older people than the young and early middle-aged adults, even though gaps were observed in the fatal burden (years of life lost, YLL) for young females and disability burden (years lived with a disability, YLD) for 0-4 year old (Figure 2). The greatest difference in overall burden (disability adjusted life years, DALY) was among those aged about 35 to 55 years indicating substantial effort is needed to address the health needs of First Nations peoples in these age groups for both males and females.1
Figure 2: Burden rate ratio of First Nations peoples compared to other Queenslanders, 2018
The leading contributors to the health gap between First Nations Queenslanders and others were mental and substance use disorders (accounting for 22.0% of the gap), cardiovascular diseases (12.6%), cancer (10.0%), respiratory diseases (9.4%) and injuries (8.1%).1
The joint effect of 19 potentially modifiable risk factors accounted for 49.1% of burden for First Nations Australians in 2018 (data for Queensland is not available) (Table 2). Tobacco use accounted for 11.9% of total health loss (DALYs), followed by alcohol use (10.4%), overweight and obesity (9.7%), illicit drug use (6.9%) and dietary factors (6.2%).2
Risk factors combined, accounted for 66.1% of the health gap between First Nations peoples and other Australians, with tobacco a leading individual contributor explaining 20.3% of the gap (Table 2). Strategies to reduce exposure to tobacco and address alcohol-related problems are therefore critical to closing the health gap including the life expectancy difference.1
|Risk factor||% of total DALY||% contribution to gap in DALY|
|Overweight (including obesity)||9.7||14.9|
|Illicit drug use||6.9||7.4|
|All dietary risks||6.2||9.6|
In 2018, the joint effect of these risk factors accounted for 97.8% of the burden of endocrine disorders, 94.8% of burden due to kidney and urinary diseases, 77.3% of the cardiovascular disease burden, 59.7% of the injury burden and 55.9% of cancer burden. This illustrates the importance of a continuing focus on prevention to improve health outcomes for First Nations peoples.1
Living life in full health
Health adjusted life expectancy (HALE) provides the time an individual at a specified age (typically at birth or at age 65 years) could expect to live in full health without disease or injury.
On average, First Nations peoples in Queensland born in 2018 could expect to live about 80% of their life in full health. Health adjusted life expectancy for First Nations peoples in Queensland males born in 2018 was 57.2 years and for females was 60.2 years. Life expectancy was estimated at 72.0 years and 76.4 years, respectively.1
HALE for First Nations peoples in Queensland was slightly higher than for First Nations Australians—for males by 1.2 years and for females by 1.4 years and compared favourably with the three other jurisdictions with reported data, ranked 2nd after New South Wales. First Nations peoples in Queensland had the highest life expectancy among the four jurisdictions for both males and females—2.0 years than First Nations peoples nationally for both males and females.1
First Nations peoples living in remote and very remote areas of Australia on average lived shorter lives than those in major cities, life expectancy was 6.2 years lower for males with a 4.0-year difference for HALE, and for females a 6.2-year difference in life expectancy and 4.0 years for HALE.1
Data and statistics
Where presented, ratios were calculated using higher precision estimates than those that are displayed within the report.
Visit the AIHW website for:
- Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2018
- interactive data visualisations from the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018: Interactive data on disease burden among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
Section technical notes
Refer to the Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and cause of illness and death in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people report for technical details of the results presented.
Results presented in this section are not comparable to the most recently released Australian Burden of Disease Study 2022.
Queensland Health has engaged with the AIHW, La Trobe University, and the University of Queensland Poche Centre for Indigenous Health in a project that aims to establish burden of disease estimates by Hospital and Health Service for 2011 and 2018. This study uses a greater amount of Queensland specific data, and has been modelled separately to the ABDS, there may therefore be some difference in the results at the state level.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2022. Australian Burden of Disease Study: Impact and Causes of Illness and Death in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People 2018. Canberra.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2022. Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018: Interactive Data on Risk Factor Burden Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. Accessed: 23 August 2022.