James McCay

May 3, 2023

A chronic illness is an ongoing health condition that can affect someone’s health and quality of life long-term. There are many different types of chronic illnesses. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) notes that the most common conditions include asthma, arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, mental health conditions, localised pain such as back pain, and osteoporosis, though there are others.1

Having a chronic illness or chronic disease means you may need regular visits to a doctor or specialist, medication and health equipment to help you live your life while managing the symptoms.

A chronic illness can also impact your ability to work, and in severe cases may lead to a terminal diagnosis, upending your life. This is where trauma insurance (also known as critical illness insurance) can help you and your loved ones with financial support while you work through this difficult time. It’s a type of life insurance that pays a lump sum if you suffer a specified serious injury or medical condition. It can be purchased on its own or part of a life insurance package, depending on the policy and the provider.

To get a glimpse of the impact chronic illnesses are having across the world, the life insurance experts at Compare the Market used 14 different data points to create an index of 50 countries to see how these nations are faring in relation to each other.

Here are the results.

How does Australia compare?

Australia sits in the middle of this 50-nation index at 25th place. In some areas Australia is ‘the lucky country’, such as being the eighth-largest population with good social support (93.81%), tenth-smallest population of smokers (12.4%), and having the fourth-lowest cardiovascular disease death rate at 73 per 100,000 people, to name a few highlights.

These good scores were balanced out by some negative ones, however. Australia had the highest cancer rate at 452.4 cases per 100,000 people and the largest population suffering from ill mental health at 19.35%.

Compare the Market’s Head of Life Insurance and Income Protection, Lana Hambilton, notes there are some serious health issues unfortunately common in Australia.

“This is not one of the times where 1st place is positive. It’s concerning to see Australia has both the largest population suffering from mental illness, as well as the highest cancer rate, as both are serious issues that can be traumatic for patients and their families. Heart attacks and cardiovascular health in Australia is another area of focus, although it’s interesting to see that many countries have a much higher rate of cardiovascular disease than Australia,” says Ms Hambilton.

The table below is a truncated table that shows data for different chronic illnesses and the overall index score. You can view the full data table with additional figures that were used to calculate the index scores here.

RankCountryCancer cases per 100,000Asthma prevalenceChronic respiratory disease deaths per 100,000CVD deaths per 100,000Diabetes prevalenceMental health condition prevalenceDigestive diseases deaths per 100,000Index score
1United States362.211.25%3912810.7%16.93%36.407.42
5United Kingdom319.910.07%28856.3%15.13%46.366.26
16New Zealand422.97.00%24956.2%19.04%19.515.52
19Czech Republic292.63.29%211827.1%11.14%50.075.31
28Slovak Republic296.83.13%131605.8%11.21%57.384.70
31South Africa209.54.27%4922610.8%12.01%19.904.55
33Costa Rica188.75.89%21938.8%13.01%28.124.34
45South Korea242.7-*17646.8%10.88%24.733.17

Does a chronic illness impact life insurance?

A chronic health condition can have an impact on a trauma insurance policy, Ms Hambilton explains.

“If you have a pre-existing condition some insurance providers may not cover claims relating to that specific condition. Alternatively, they may offer the option to lodge a claim related to an event caused by the condition, at an additional cost,” says Hambilton.

“Cancer, however, is a bit different. Life insurance can typically pay a claim if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness and given less than 24 months to live, which can include cancer. If you already have cancer, insurers might add exclusions to your policy where you will be covered for other illnesses and diseases, but not a pre-existing condition. A family history of cancer may also mean your life insurance premiums are a bit more expensive.”

“Trauma Insurance (a type of life insurance) could assist you in the event of a specified critical illness diagnosis, like cancer or a heart attack, it can also support in the instance of a serious injury that occurs after the policy start date. It’s important to keep in mind that cover may be subject to conditions, such as a premium loading or an exclusion. Trauma cover provides a lump sum payment that could assist with medical costs, therapy, living expenses or even changes to your house to adjust to this condition.”


To compile this index, Compare the Market sourced data for 14 different metrics across 50 different countries, analysing different chronic illness statistics and statistics for associated risk factors. Countries were given a score for each individual metric out of 10, with 10 representing a the worst score and 0 representing the best score for that metric. All other countries (i.e. not the best or the worst scoring for that metric) were given a normalised score between 0 and 10 for each metric. After this step, all 50 countries were indexed by calculating an equally weighted average from all 14 metrics, providing a final score out of 10.

The specific datasets and how these datapoints were scored are as follows:

  • Social support: the percentage of people who say they have friends or family they can count on when in trouble. A lower percentage was given a worse score out of 10.
  • Smoking percentage of population over 15: the percentage of the population over the age of 15 that smoke cigars, cigarettes and tobacco. A higher percentage was given a worse score out of 10.
  • DALYs per 100,000: Disability-adjusted life years, representing the number of years lost due to bad health – sourced from the IHME Global Burden of Disease 2019 report. A higher rate was given a worse score out of 10.
  • Percentage of deaths caused by NCDs: The portion of all deaths in a country caused by a non-communicable disease. A higher percentage was given a worse score out of 10.
  • Cancer cases per 100,000: The number of cancer cases in a country, across all cancers. A higher rate was given a worse score out of 10.
  • Litres of alcohol consumed per capita: How many litres of alcohol are consumed per capita over a year. A higher number was given a worse score out of 10.
  • Asthma prevalence: The percentage of a nation’s population with asthma – sourced from the IHME Global Burden of Disease 2019 report. A higher prevalence was given a worse score out of 10.
  • Chronic respiratory disease deaths per 100,000: The death rate from chronic respiratory disease in a country. A higher rate was given a worse score out of 10.
  • CVD deaths per 100,000: The death rate from cardiovascular disease in a country. A higher rate was given a worse score out of 10.
  • Diabetes prevalence: The percentage of 20-79 year-olds with diabetes. A higher prevalence was given a worse score out of 10.
  • Percentage of population with a mental health condition: The percentage of the population with a mental health condition, excluding drug, alcohol and substance abuse conditions – sourced from the IHME Global Burden of Disease 2019 report. A higher prevalence was given a worse score out of 10.
  • Digestive disease deaths per 100,000: The rate of death caused by a digestive disease. A higher rate was given a worse score out of 10.
  • Overweight prevalence in adult population: The percentage of adults who are categorised as overweight or obese. A higher rate was given a worse score out of 10.
  • Prevalence of physical inactivity: The percentage of a country’s adult population who do not meet recommended physical activity levels. A higher prevalence was given a worse score out of 10.

* Some countries did not have data available for some metrics. Where this was the case, an average score from all other countries that did have data was used for the purpose of calculating the index score.


1 Chronic disease. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Government. 2023.
2 Age-standardized suicide rate. Western Pacific Health Data Platform, World Health Organization. 2021.