On a number of indicators, Victorians have very good health. They are living longer and are improving their health status on several measures:
- Life expectancy at birth in Victoria is 84.9 years for females and 80.7 years for males, which is among the highest in the world.
- Immunisation coverage for Victorian children is high, with more than 95 per cent of Victorian five-year-olds being age-appropriately immunised.
- The proportion of daily smokers in Victoria decreased by 0.3 per cent to 12.3 per cent of the population in 2016, see Burden of disease.
- More than three quarters of Victorians say their satisfaction with life is very high or high and more than 80 per cent of Victorians report their health as excellent, very good or good.
- Victoria’s adjusted perinatal mortality rate was 8.8 per 1,000 births and is among the lowest in Australia and in other countries of similar socioeconomic status.
- Many Victorians who suffered chronic hepatitis C infection were cured of the condition due to new direct-acting antiviral treatments.
Other indicators, however, show that Victorians also experience poorer health:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians have a life-expectancy approximately 10 years lower than non-Indigenous Victorians.
- Only 50 per cent of adults undertake sufficient physical activity for health benefits, while approximately one quarter of adults spend eight hours or more sitting on an average weekday.
- Fewer than five per cent of adults meet the dietary guidelines for vegetable consumption and just more than 40 per cent of adults meet the guidelines for fruit consumption.
- 17 per cent of Victorians were identified as having an increased lifetime risk of alcohol-related harm based on National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines.
When body weight is assessed, more than two-thirds of Victorian adults are overweight or obese. Chronic disease is common, with more than one in five adult Victorians diagnosed with two or more chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes (6.8 per cent of Victorians), heart disease (7.3 per cent), cancer (7.8 per cent), asthma (11.5 per cent), arthritis (20.4 per cent) and depression (24.5 per cent).
Socio-economic indicators impact our health. Household income, for example, is linked to health and results in certain income groups experiencing greater levels of disease. Stroke, diabetes and heart disease are just some of the health conditions where people from lower-income households experience higher levels of disease. In some cases, this difference was stark: the proportion of men and women who currently smoke from households with an annual income less than $40,000 was more than double the proportion from households with an annual income above $100,000.
When mental health is examined, one in five Victorians will experience a mental health condition in a given year, and 45 per cent of Victorians experience one during their lifetime. Certain groups in Victoria are more prone to mental health conditions: a study of older Victorians, for example, found ten per cent of people aged 60 or older experienced loneliness and this increased as people aged. The lifetime prevalence of self-reported doctor-diagnosed depression or anxiety increased significantly for both males and females between 2003 and 2016.
When environmental factors impacting health are assessed, Victoria's air quality is good by international standards, and has improved significantly over recent decades. Victoria’s water authorities continue to supply safe drinking water across the state. The impacts of climate change, however, increase risks to air quality with longer and harsher bushfire seasons; changing climate also presents risks to our water supply through increased likelihood of blue-green algal blooms as well as supply issues due to drought. Climate change can and will have impacts upon the mental health of Victorians.
Buruli ulcer - a condition that impacts Victoria more than any other state or territory - has occurred more often than previous years. Victorians are already experiencing the effects of antimicrobial resistance and much work is required to prevent further loss of effectiveness of antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals.
Where Victorians live can also impact health outcomes: rural and regional Victorians are more likely to belong to an organised community group than those who live in metropolitan Melbourne, and less likely to feel socially isolated. Rural and regional local government areas are, however, more likely to be classified as disadvantaged and this relative disadvantage has significant impacts upon health and wellbeing.
Many risk factors for these health conditions are preventable. Smoking, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, low fruit and vegetable intake and exercise can be limited. As identified in this report, however, the social determinants of health can present significant barriers in addressing these risk factors.
While this report highlights the profound public health risks of climate change and antimicrobial resistance, it also explores some of the work underway in Victoria to address these global issues.
This report also documents some of the policy changes implemented to promote the health of Victorians, such as tobacco control activities, the further extension of water fluoridation in rural and regional Victoria to promote dental health, food safety measures to reduce food-borne illness and initiatives implemented by the department to reduce HIV transmission and promote cervical screening for women. Where relevant, this report provides links to health advocacy organisations which can support Victorians to live healthier lives.
Reviewed 17 April 2023