New data shows men in the ACT are dying with Parkinson’s disease at a rate per capita that’s higher than anywhere else in the country.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data, Mortality Over Regions and Time 2013-2017, released earlier this month, revealed Parkinson’s disease was the 11th most attributed cause of death amongst ACT men during that time frame, at a rate 47% higher than the national average.
Parkinson’s disease was also the 17th most attributed cause of death within the entire ACT population at a rate 29% higher than the national average.
However, the data showed that coronary heart disease is still the leading cause of death in both the ACT and nationally.
Parkinson’s ACT Committee Member Martin Pikler told Canberra Weekly the organisation had no understanding that the ACT is atypical in regard to the number of people residing here with Parkinson’s.
“If the figures are accurate and indicative, we do have a higher rate of Parkinson’s per capita than we understood.”
However, Mr Pikler warned it’s hard to draw conclusions off the AIHW’s report raw data that without proper analysis could easily be speculated upon.
“It’s important to understand that with deaths attributed to Parkinson’s, you die with Parkinson’s rather than from it. For example, as your condition becomes more severe, you might develop symptoms which might cause an incident from which you die.”
Mr Pikler said the fact some acquire Parkinson’s often 20-30 years prior to passing away is another point to consider alongside the data.
“The reported deaths in this data would include people who acquired Parkinson’s some 20-30 years ago, and were then diagnosed with it some 10-15 years before passing.
“Those being attributable of dying with Parkinson’s in these stats, where these people were 20-30 years ago is another matter, with the ACT having a higher rate of migration than the rest of the country,” he said.
Parkinson’s ACT is a community and volunteer run non-for-profit organisation that currently has no ACT Government funding, and raises money from fundraisers and donations.
“There is a prominence in Parkinson’s that’s shown by these figures, and there is a need for more government and community support,” Mr Pikler said.
Despite coronary heart disease remaining the leading cause of death in the ACT, it occurs here at a rate 18% lower than the national average.
In 2017, 245 lives were lost to the disease in the ACT, accounting for 10.6% of the Territory’s total deaths.
Heart Foundation ACT CEO Tony Stubbs said this is still the case despite some great advances in prevention and treatment over the past 60 years.
“One of the saddest things about deaths from heart disease is that many could have been prevented through the management of risk factors like blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, being overweight and physical inactivity.
“Some risk factors for heart disease, like high cholesterol and high blood pressure, are invisible,” he said.