Chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, make a large contribution to disease burden among Indigenous Australians.
In 2015–2019, 1,498 Indigenous Australians died from respiratory diseases (10% of all deaths), corresponding to 42 deaths per 100,000 population, making this the fourth leading cause of death (data from NSW, Qld, WA, SA and NT combined). Most of these deaths were from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (63% of all respiratory disease deaths), pneumonia and influenza (17%), and asthma (5%).
In 2018–19, almost 1 in 3 Indigenous Australians (29% or 238,000) had a long-term respiratory disease (lasting 6 months or more), based on self-reported survey data.
Indigenous Australians living in non-remote areas (32%) reported a higher rate of respiratory disease than those in remote areas (15%). The most commonly reported respiratory conditions for Indigenous Australians were asthma (16%), chronic sinusitis (7.4%) and COPD (3.4%).
After adjusting for differences in the age structure between the two populations, Indigenous Australians were 2.2 times as likely to report COPD (5% and 2%, respectively) and 1.6 times as likely to report asthma as non-Indigenous Australians (18% and 11%, respectively).
Chronic respiratory diseases
Chronic respiratory diseases are long-lasting with persistent effects.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a serious long-term lung disorder that limits airflow in the lungs. It includes emphysema and bronchitis, and is not fully reversible, even with treatment.
- Asthma is chronic inflammation of the airways, causing wheezing, breathlessness, and chest tightness. Asthma can usually be managed through appropriate treatment.
The hospitalisation rate for respiratory diseases for Indigenous Australians was highest for those aged 65 years and over (110 per 1,000), followed by those aged 0–4 years (85 per 1,000) between July 2017 and June 2019. The rate of hospitalisations due to respiratory diseases was higher among Indigenous Australians living in Remote and Very remote areas than among those in non-remote areas (Figure 4.17).
Across all age groups, the hospitalisation rate for respiratory diseases was higher for Indigenous Australians than for non-Indigenous Australians. After adjusting for differences in the age structure between the two populations, the hospitalisation rate of Indigenous Australians for respiratory diseases was 2.4 times the rate for non‑Indigenous Australians.
Figure 4.17: Rate of hospitalisations due to respiratory disease by Indigenous status and age group, and for Indigenous Australians by remoteness, July 2017 to June 2019
Age-standardised rates of hospitalisation from respiratory disease among Indigenous Australians increased over the decade to 2018–19, but the age-standardised rate of deaths from respiratory disease changed little over a similar period (2010–2019) (Figure 4.18).
Figure 4.18: Rate of hospitalisations (2009–10 to 2018–19) and deaths (2010–2019) due to respiratory disease, by Indigenous status (age-standardised)
For further information, see: