Recently the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare published a report “Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018”. This report highlighted that one third of the disease burden in Australia is caused by modifiable risk factors which include tobacco use, obesity and high blood pressure. In 2018 alone, Australians lost 5 million years of healthy life due to living with, or dying prematurely from, a disease. Even more concerning is that Australians suffered more burden from living with a disease than from premature death.

MetLife’s 360Health recognises the importance of focusing not just on lifespan but also on our healthspan – the number of years we live healthily and without the burden of disease, especially preventable disease. According to the report, the five diseases that were seen to cause the most burden were cancer with 18%, closely behind were musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, mental and substance use disorders all at 13% each, and finally injuries such as slips, trips and falls at 8.4%.

Most interestingly it is estimated that 38% or 1.9 million of these years were potentially avoidable.

The key preventable risk, despite a reduction in smoking prevalence, is still tobacco but the gap between tobacco and obesity as a risk factor is closing.

So, what can we do to improve our health? It comes as no surprise that prevention is key – the general consensus among health experts is that diet and exercise are important measures to combat lost years of healthy life caused by obesity. Also taking simple steps of early detection through screening can reduce the risk of cancers particularly skin, ovarian, bowel and breast.

MetLife 360Health has tools and resources available to help you better understand these risk factors and take steps toward a healthier and therefore better healthspan. For tips and support for diet, exercise, early detection of cancer visit the MetLife 360Health resource hub at metlife.com.au/360health.

It is not easy to change but the first step is to better understand what you can do, how you can do it and where to find help.

Mark Raberger
Head of Health