Heart events costing Australia $6.8 billion

More Australians may be surviving heart attacks. But an increasing number are living with the burden of heart disease. And the economy is feeling the strain.

Acute coronary syndrome (ACS) includes heart attack and unstable angina. A new series of Heart Foundation reports reveals the total economic cost of ACS in Australia – $6.8 billion in 2017-18.

The largest share of this figure is the loss of income for those who experience an ACS event, estimated at $3.5 billion. This is followed by the $1.9 billion on healthcare expenditure associated with ACS events, such as hospital stays.

ACS events also put a financial strain on households. A recent study (Hyun et al, 2016) found that nine in ten ACS patients incur out-of-pocket expenses. These include medications, driving to appointments and rehabilitation costs. On average, a survivor will be out of pocket $3,100 in the 12 months after their ACS event.

‘Concerning’ figures

Heart Foundation National CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly AM, said, “These figures are concerning. More than 1.4 million Australians are at high risk of having their first heart attack or stroke in the next five years.

“Preventing heart attacks and strokes from happening in the first place, and improving outcomes for those who have these life-threatening heart events, needs to be a high priority for all governments and the community.

“A heart attack is not a one-off event. It’s a life changer, with long term after-effects. The average cost of a heart attack to an individual and their family over a lifetime is $68,000. This includes lost income, out-of-pocket expenses like rehabilitation and medication, and informal care from family and friends, such as the time taken to provide basic nursing.”

The report, ‘Economic Cost of Acute Coronary Syndrome in Australia: The Cost to Individuals and Their Families’ is the second in a series to place a figure on the full economic cost of heart disease. It builds on the Heart’s Foundation’s first report, ‘Economic Cost of Acute Coronary Syndrome in Australia: The Cost to Governments’.

Both studies were funded by a Sanofi Community Support Research Grant.