National Women's Health Policy

Burden of disease and injury

Page last updated: 07 February 2011

The burden of disease and injury is measured using the ‘disability-adjusted life year’ (DALY). The DALY measures the years of life lost due to premature death coupled with years of ‘healthy’ life lost due to disability.5 One DALY is equivalent to one lost year of healthy life.

The total burden of disease and injury in Australia in 2003 was 2.63 million DALYs.6 Men accounted for more of the burden of disease and injury (1.4 million DALYs) than women (1.3 million DALYs).7

Table 2 shows sex differences in the leading specific causes of healthy life lost. Ischaemic heart disease was the leading specific cause of healthy life lost for men and anxiety and depression were the largest contributors to healthy life lost among women. Dementia, breast cancer, and asthma were in the top 10 specific causes of healthy life lost for women, but not for men. The category suicide and self-inflicted injury was ranked eighth for men, but these causes did not rank in the top 10 for women.

Table 2: Ten leading specific causes of burden of disease and injury (DALYs). by sex. Australia 2003.8

  Male burden   Female burden
Rank Specific cause No. of DALYs % of total DALYs Specific cause No of DALYs % of total DALYs
1 Ischaemic heart disease 151,107 11.1 Anxiety and depression 126,464 10.0
2 Type 2 diabetes 71,176 5.2 Ischaemic heart disease 112,390 8.9
3 Anxiety and depression 65,321 4.8 Stroke 65,166 5.1
4 Lung cancer 55,028 4.0 Type 2 diabetes 61,763 4.9
5 Stroke 53,296 3.9 Dementia 60,747 4.8
6 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 49,201 3.6 Breast cancer 60,520 4.8
7 Adult-onset hearing loss 42,653 3.1 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 37,550 3.0
8 Suicide and self-inflicted injury 38,717 2.8 Lung cancer 33,876 2.7
9 Prostate cancer 36,547 2.7 Asthma 33,828 2.7
10 Colorectal cancer 34,643 2.5 Colorectal cancer 28,962 2.3