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Australians living with chronic illness are more likely to live on their own, and are at increased risk of experiencing social isolation and loneliness when lockdowns and other measures which limited social interaction were in place, a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found.

The report, Life and work experiences of Australians with chronic conditions suggested the pandemic affected the lives of all Australians but many people with chronic conditions have faced some particular challenges. For example, people with chronic conditions are at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19 than those without chronic conditions.

The study analysed the experiences of people aged 15 to 64 years old living with chronic illness before 2020, when the COVID pandemic hit.

“About 47% of Australians are estimated to have at least one chronic health condition, such as arthritis, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and mental and behavioural conditions,” AIHW spokesperson Katherine Faulks said.

The survey found 71% of 15 to 64 demographic held full or part-time jobs compared with 80% of the general population; that 18% received a pension or allowance compared to 7% of the general public; and 29% of the group were based outside of major city areas, compared to 23% of the national population.

Designed to provide “baseline” information that can fuel further research, the report also provided in-depth analysis on the lives of those aged between 45 and 64 years of age, AIHW spokesperson Katherine Faulks explained.

“More than a quarter (26%) of 45-64-year-olds with chronic conditions self-assessed their health as poor, compared to 16% of those aged 15-44,” AIHW spokesperson Katherine Faulks said.

“Among mature working-age Australians with chronic conditions, individual-based measures of socioeconomic position such as family composition of household, home ownership, and education were found to be important factors in their likelihood of reporting poor self-assessed health.

“Mature working-age Australians with chronic conditions were more likely to report poor health if they had any of the following characteristics: three or more types of chronic conditions; any activity limitations or a disability; were male; were renters; were living alone; and had no tertiary qualifications.”

More information on the report can be found at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website.