News on the health front seems mixed for Australia. While there is a steep decline in the number those who smoke, they are also becoming progressively more and more obese.
According to a report released today by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the proportion of Australians who smoke has more than halved in the past 20 years, but the proportion of obese Australians has almost tripled.
The OECD's fifth biennial report Health at a Glance 2009
— OECD Indicators compares key health data across its 30 member countries. Australian data for the report were supplied by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
Australia is among world leaders in reduced tobacco consumption, cutting the percentage of adults who smoke daily from 35 per cent in 1983 to 17 per cent in 2007. The smoking rate in Australia is now one of the lowest in OECD countries, behind only Sweden and the United States.
In contrast, the report ranked Australia fourth worst in terms of adult obesity rates, following the United States, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
'Half or more of the adult population is now defined as being either overweight or obese in no less than 13 OECD countries, including Australia,' said Sally Bullock of the AIHW's Population Health Unit.
In terms of health spending per person, Australia ranked above the OECD average, with $US 3,137 spent per person compared with an OECD average of $US 2,964.
However, the report shows Australia has fewer doctors per person than in most other OECD countries, with 2.8 practising doctors per 1,000 people in 2006, compared to the OECD average of 3.1.
The number of acute care hospital beds in Australia is also slightly below the OECD average at 3.5 beds per 1,000 compared to the OECD average of 3.8 beds per 1,000.
'As in most OECD countries, the number of hospital beds per person has fallen over time. This decline has coincided with a reduction of average length of hospital stays and an increase in the number of same-day surgical procedures,' Ms Bullock said.
The report shows that Australia has the highest level of influenza vaccination among the elderly of any OECD country (78 per cent of all people aged 65 and over).
Life expectancy has increased substantially in OECD countries over the past four decades and Australians can now expect to live to 81.4 years (83.7 for women and 79 for men).
Australia has the third highest life expectancy among OECD countries, following Japan and Switzerland.