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Stroke More Prevalent In Poorer Areas, Australia

September 13, 2017

People living in poorer areas were more likely to suffer stroke than those in more affluent areas, according to research published in the latest Medical Journal of Australia. Researchers from hospitals and universities in Australia and New Zealand analysed data from 3,077 cases of stroke in Perth, Melbourne and Auckland between 1995 and 2003.

Using area-level measures of relative socioeconomic "deprivation", the researchers found that patients in the most deprived areas had strokes at an average age of 68 years, compared with 77 years in the least deprived areas.

Patients from the most deprived areas who had strokes were more likely to be of non-European ethnicity, blue collar workers or current smokers, and to have a history of hypertension and diabetes, Dr Emma Heeley from the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney said.

Effective preventive measures targeting high blood pressure, diabetes and cigarette smoking in poorer areas could substantially reduce the rate of stroke, the researchers said.

"Our study indicates that improving the socioeconomic status (SES) profile of those living in the most deprived areas could prevent up to one-fifth of strokes in Australia and New Zealand," Dr Heeley said.

There was little difference in survival rates 12 months after a stroke between those in the most deprived and the least deprived areas, but those people who had been actively employed before their stroke were more likely to be alive a year later.

"This study provides evidence of an association between area-level SES and stroke incidence rates in Australia and New Zealand, but of no clear relationship between SES and survival at 12 months," Dr Heeley said.

"Although the latter finding provides reassurance that the systems of health care in the two countries do not appear to discriminate against people in more disadvantaged areas, the former reaffirms the importance of targeted prevention directed at people living in disadvantaged areas where there are disproportionately high rates of disease."

The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.

Medical Journal of Australia