National Women's Health Policy

Major health issues faced by Australian women

Page last updated: 07 February 2011

Measures of general health

Self-assessed health is a commonly used measure of health status. In 2006, just over half of women aged 18 years and over (57.9 per cent) considered their health status to be excellent or very good. The percentage of women who rated their health as poor or fair increased with age, while those who considered their health to be excellent or very good peaked at ages 25 to 34 years and then declined with increasing age.3

The leading underlying causes of death in females are shown, grouped by age, in the table below. Across all age groups, cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, stroke and other heart and blood vessel diseases, remains the biggest killer of Australian women. This is despite a 76 per cent fall in death rates since the 1960s. Age groupings show that, despite its place as the leading underlying cause of death in women, the majority of these deaths happen in women over 65.

Table 1: Leading underlying broad causes of death in females by age group

Age group Leading underlying broad causes of death in females by age group % of deaths
Under 1 year Conditions originating in the perinatal period 46.0
  Congenital anomalies 28.6
  Ill-defined conditions 11.5
  Injury and poisoning 3.5
1-14 years Injury and poisoning 36.3
  Cancer and other tumours 17.9
  Nervous system disorders 19.4
  Cardiovascular disease 7.1
15-24 years Injury and poisoning 53.8
  Cancer and other tumours 14.2
  Cardiovascular disease 7.8
  Ill-defined conditions 5.6
25-44 years Cance and other tumours 35.0
  Injury and poisoning 27.7
  Cariovascular disease 11.5
  Il-defined conditions 4.5
45-64 years Cancer and other trumours 55.8
  Cardiovascular disease 13.9
  Injury and poisoning 7.1
  Respiratory system diseases 5.9
65-84 years Cancer and other tumours 33.3
  Cardiovascular Disease 32.4
  Respiratory system diseases 8.8
  Endocrine-related disorders 4.8
85 + years Cardiovascular disease 48.6
  Cancer and other tumours 12.1
  Respiratory system diseases 8.7
  Mental disorders 8.3
All ages Cardiovascular disease 36.5
  Cancer and other tumours 26.0
  Respiratory system diseases 8.2
  Mental disorders 5.4