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Healthcare Expenditure Profile of Older Australians: Evidence from Linked Survey and Health Administrative Data


  • This research uses data from the 45 and Up Study which is managed by the Sax Institute in collaboration with major partner the Cancer Council New South Wales; and partners the Heart Foundation (NSW Division); NSW Ministry of Health; beyondblue: the national depression initiative; Ageing, Disability and Home Care, NSW Family and Community Services; and Australian Red Cross Blood Services. This project was undertaken by the University of Technology Sydney and utilised MBS and PBS data supplied by the Department of Human Services and linked to the 45 and Up Study by the Sax Institute. Data linkage of hospital admission and emergency department data for the project was undertaken by the Centre for Health Record Linkage. The project has ethics approval from the NSW Population and Health Services Research Ethics Committee. The findings are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth of Australia, represented in this instance by the Department of Health and Ageing and the Department of Human Services. The project is funded by an ARC Discovery Project grant (DP110100729).

Correspondence: Elizabeth Savage, Economics Discipline Group, UTS Business School, PO Box 123 Broadway, NSW, 2007, Australia. Email:


This article provides a comprehensive profile of individual healthcare expenditure using the 45 and Up Study of over 267,000 NSW residents linked to administrative medical service records. Individuals aged 45 and over consume two-thirds of healthcare expenditure in Australia. We compute annual total healthcare expenditure comprising hospital admissions, emergency presentations, out-of-hospital medical consultations and diagnostic tests and subsidised drugs. The average annual expenditure in the sample is $4334 in 2009 dollars. Less than 3 per cent have zero expenditure. Health service mix varies with age, with the share of hospital expenditure increasing with age. The age trends of total expenditure and its components are then examined by key demographic, socioeconomic and health characteristics, providing important insights into future healthcare demand and a foundation for future research into the drivers of healthcare expenditures and the distribution of health subsidies.