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Australians are living almost six years longer than they were 30 years ago, but more people are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Life expectancy at birth in Australia was 77 years in 1990 and had risen to 82.9 years by 2019 according to data published in the Lancet Public Health, which also compared the burden of disease in Australia with 14 similar high sociodemographic (SDI) countries over the same period.

Australia ranks better for diabetes and stroke than many other countries, but ranks poorly for anxiety and depressive disorders as well as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and falls among the elderly.

“This tells us that despite Australia’s strong healthcare system we need to do better with our primary prevention and health promotion strategies,” said Associate Professor Shariful Islam from Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition.

The study represents the most extensive analysis of disease burden in Australia using standardised and globally comparable metrics developed by the Global Burden of Disease, a comprehensive assessment of premature death, morbidity and disability.

The leading cause of deaths in Australia were ischaemic heart disease; stroke; tracheal, bronchus, and lung cancer; Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias; and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Poor mental health, drug use disorders, as well as self-harm and interpersonal violence are among the emerging health issues in Australia.