Indigenous Australians are 2.6 times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to have two or more chronic health conditions, according to new research.
Researchers from the University of New South Wales said the difference explained the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians after they analysed data from almost 5.5 million Australians.
The study was led by Dr Deborah Randall, of the Centre for Big Data Research in Health, and published in the Australian Medical Journal.
The research found that 31.5 percent of Aboriginal patients had at least one medical condition and 16.1 percent had two or more, compared to 25 percent and 12.1 percent of non-Aboriginal patients.
It also revealed multiple conditions were higher in Aboriginal people in all age groups because of the higher prevalence of mental conditions in younger people and physical conditions in people over 60.
Interventions to reduce the rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be a priority, it said.
“Life expectancy at birth of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is estimated to be 11.5 years lower for men, and 9.7 years lower for women, than for other Australians,” the report said.
“The burden of disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians … is more than twice that of other Australians, and non-communicable diseases are responsible for 70 percent of the difference.”
National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples co-chair Jackie Huggins said she hoped the study would lead to change.