Adverse outcomes

The adverse outcomes experienced by young people may vary according to the specific type of disability or health condition that the parent has. For example, young people caring for a parent with a physical disability report a variety of physical ailments resulting from the caring role, including muscle strain, fatigue and exhaustion (Gays 2000). Young people living with a parent with mental illness may experience greater social isolation as a result of the stigma attached to mental illness, as well as the stress of coping with the parent's condition.

Figure 3.8 presents disability prevalence rates among parents for four disability groups: intellectual/ learning, psychiatric, sensory/speech, and physical/diverse. Intellectual/learning disability is associated with impairment of intellectual functions, with limitations in a range of daily activities and with restriction in participation in various life areas. Psychiatric disability is associated with clinically recognisable symptoms and behaviour patterns frequently associated with distress that may impair personal functioning in normal social activity. Sensory/speech disability is associated with impairment of the eye, ear and related structures, and of speech structures and functions.

Activity limitations may occur in various areas, for instance communication and mobility. Physical/ diverse disability is associated with the presence of an impairment, which may have diverse effects within and among individuals, including effects on physical activities such as mobility.

This report discusses the current overall health status of young Australians in the 21st century with that of young Australians in the 1990's by making reference to morbidity and mortality data and to positive measures of well being. In finishing this report, data from the specified years were studied and analysed.

Self-assessed health is often a good indicator of the positive measures of wellbeing. A series of studies have also shown that people's perception of their own health status to be a powerful, independent predictor of their future health. Table 2.1 below indicates the ‘self-assessed health statuses' of those aged 15-24. Surveys performed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) asked respondents to assess their own health against a five-point scale.

In 2004-05, 70% of young Australians aged 15-24 years assessed themselves to be in either a state of excellent or very good health; another 24% rated their health as good and the remaining 7% to be either fair or poor. Young males outnumber females aged 15-17 years in either a state of excellent or very good health (85% of males compared to 80% of females), results were very similar in the 18-24 age group. There is a slight increase in the proportion of young people stating their health to be excellent or very good from 65% in 1995 to 70% in 2004-05. Likewise, the proportion of young people who assessed their health as fair or poor declined from 9% in 1995 to 7% in 2004-05.

Morbidity rates often refer to disease and disabilities. Communicable diseases such as Hepatitis B and C for example, remain a threat to human health. Fortunately, the number of hepatitis B notifications have almost halved between 1995 and 2005, from 100 notifications to 55. Hepatitis C on the other hand increased since 1996 from 1.1 per 100,000 young people to a peak of 9.4 per 100,000 in 2001; it did however decline again to 3.5 per 100,000 in 2005. There are also chronic diseases such as Hayfever and allergic rhinitis which are considered the most frequent long-term conditions reported (14%), followed by short-sightedness (12%); and then asthma, with a prevalence rate of 8.5% during the 1990's and 13% in 2004-05.

A population's experience of mortality provides a key set of indicators of its health and wellbeing. Even though death rates for young Australians are quite low during the 1990's and the 21st century, the trends and differences are still significant in the planning of future public health care.

In 2004, there were 1,470 deaths among those aged 12-24 years, 1,012 (69%) were males. As indicated by Table 2.26 above, the leading cause of death for young Australians was transport accidents which make up 30% of all deaths in this age group; followed by intentional self-harm (19%), and accidental poisoning (5%). These three causes accounted for over 50% of all deaths. Cancers also featured among the leading causes of death for young Australians having been responsible for 3% of all deaths. High levels of distress between young males (12%) and females (19%) aged 18-24 has also been reported, an increase from 1997 when the corresponding proportions were 7% and 13%.

In 1997, there were 2,082 deaths among those aged 12-24years, 1,523 males and 559 females. The causes for two-thirds of all deaths during this decade were very similar to that of the 21st century. On a positive note, the mortality rates among young Australians aged 12-24 years over the past two decades has halved, mainly due to decreases in deaths caused by injury which accounts for a majority of deaths. Suicide and transport accidents have too declined by 40% and 35% respectively between 1995 and 2004 and deaths due to drug dependence disorder decreased from 142 deaths in 1997 to 3 deaths in 2004.

PART 2e: Asthma

Asthma is one of the most common long-term health problems amongst adolescents in Australia. It is a disease caused by the narrowing of one's airways, resulting in symptoms of wheezing and shortness of breath. For most asthmatics, the condition can be effectively controlled through medications on a regular basis; in some cases, people with severe asthma may lead to premature death. In spite of the difficulties in precisely measuring asthma prevalence, studies have indicated that Australia has one of the highest prevalence rates in the world and is indeed on the rise, having increased in the early-to-mid 1990's.

The burden of disease due to asthma is significant, accounting for 7,995 DALYs or 4% of the total disease burden for young Australians aged between 15-24 years in 2003. In 1996, asthma accounted for 2.6% of total DALYs (2.1% for males and 3.1% for females). This 2.6% is made from 4.8% of YLD and only 0.6% of all YLL, indicating the fact that asthma is a major cause of chronic disability rather than death.

During the 1990's, 11.3% of the then population had asthma, an increase on the 8.5% prevalence in 1989-90; whereas in 2004-05, estimates based on the ABS have indicated a prevalence rate of 13%. Between 1996-97 and 2004-05, females were overall more prevalent to asthma (14%) than males (11%). As shown in Figure 2.14 above, the difference was largest in the 20-24 year age group where the prevalence rate for females was 1.7 times the rate for males. However, among those aged 12-14 years, the prevalence rates for both genders were close (14% and 13% respectively).

It may also be of interest to acknowledge the significant reductions in asthma hospital separation rates between years 1996-97 and 2004-05. The number of separations has fallen from 189 to 88 separations per 100,000 young people for males and from 283 to 131 separations per 100,000 for young females, a decline of 54%.

In terms of mortality rates in 2004, there were 14 deaths due to asthma which accounts for less than 1% of all deaths in this age range. Between 1995 and 2004, deaths from asthma almost halved. This shows that asthma is not the main cause of deaths in Australia; and is also a clear indicator that young Australians today are much healthier than their counterparts were during the 1990's. This decrease in mortality rates can be largely due to a reduction in the severity of asthma, changes in treatment practices or environmental factors or through improved asthma management.

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