General Malaise

The results are in ” our health still lags behind.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released the results of its 2004-05 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey. This survey is the largest ever study of the Indigenous population, and reveals that health problems in our own community still far outweigh those in the non-Indigenous population.

The most commonly reported health problem was eye and eyesight conditions, with 30 per cent of respondents reporting eye problems. This was followed by asthma, at 15 per cent. The survey revealed that Indigenous Australians were 1.6 times more likely to report asthma as a long-term health condition than non-Indigenous Australians.

Back problems (13 per cent), heart and circulatory diseases (12 per cent) and ear or hearing problems (also 12 per cent) were the next most commonly reported conditions. One in 10 Indigenous children under 15 years of age reported having ear or hearing problems. This is about three times greater than the rate of ear problems among non-Indigenous children.

High blood pressure was also widespread, with 22 per cent of respondents over the age of 35 reporting blood pressure problems ” that’s one in five people.

The survey also highlighted the continuing high incidence of diabetes, revealing that Indigenous Australians were more than three times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to report having diabetes. Further to this, Indigenous people living in remote areas were almost twice as likely to have diabetes as those living in non-remote areas. And nearly one third of those aged 55 or over had diabetes or high blood sugar levels.

Rates of kidney disease were also much higher in the Indigenous population than in the non-Indigenous population.

Overall, about two-thirds of respondents reported having at least one long-term health problem, with that figure rising to 80 per cent among people 55 years old and older.

Lifestyle factors were also examined, and results revealed that half the Indigenous population were current daily smokers (people who smoked one or more cigarettes a day). Smoking was more common among Indigenous than non-Indigenous adults in all age groups. Drinking alcohol at risky levels was also high, although Indigenous and non-Indigenous adults reported similar rates for drinking alcohol at risky or high risk levels.

These results show little, if any, improvement in any aspect of Indigenous health since the last survey, which was held in 2001, despite an increase in government funding for Indigenous health programs.

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