Australia, known for its high standards of health and healthcare, is witnessing an unsettling disparity in health outcomes and life expectancy among its diverse population segments according to recent research. As global evidence suggests, the benefits of life expectancy gains aren’t equitably enjoyed by the affluent and the underprivileged.
Between 2001 and 2018, using a spatial inequality model and merging various administrative datasets, this study unravels considerable mortality inequality between Australia’s rich and poor. For most age categories, this inequality has remained consistent over two decades. Nevertheless, a growing mortality inequality is observed among middle-aged Australians.
Historical data showcases remarkable leaps in longevity, placing Australia’s life expectancy notably higher than countries with comparable GDPs like the US, UK, and Canada. Despite such progress, the gains aren’t universally experienced. Indigenous Australians, for instance, have a life expectancy around 8 years lower than non-Indigenous Australians.
Delving into the age-gender-cause-specific mortality patterns, an overall decline in mortality rates from 2001-2018 was noted. However, middle-aged Australians (particularly the 45-54 age group) have experienced increasing mortality inequality, predominantly due to a rise in cancer-related deaths. In contrast, mortality inequality among Australian youth has notably decreased, largely credited to significant reductions in accident-related deaths, especially transport accidents, in socioeconomically disadvantaged regions compared to affluent areas.
Another crucial aspect examined was healthcare accessibility. Data revealed richer Australian regions consistently have more doctors per capita than poorer ones. No equalisation trends in doctor distribution over time were observed, suggesting that healthcare accessibility could be a key factor in mortality disparities.
To bridge this growing mortality gap, particularly in middle-aged Australians, policymakers must amplify efforts to enhance healthcare accessibility in less affluent regions. This focus could be a vital step towards rectifying health and mortality imbalances in Australia.