- A chronic condition is an illness that lasts for at least 6 months.
- Effective management of chronic conditions can help improve your overall health and wellbeing. It can prevent or delay complications and slow the progression of your disease.
- If you have a chronic illness, you will likely benefit from having a team of health professionals involved in your care.
What is a chronic condition?
A chronic condition is an illness that lasts for at least 6 months. Many people living with a chronic condition need to manage their condition long-term.
Chronic conditions describe a range of health conditions, including:
- chronic (ongoing) and complex conditions
- mental illness
- genetic disorders
Chronic conditions can often lead to your health gradually getting worse. They can lower your quality of life and affect your independence.
What are some examples of chronic conditions?
Common chronic conditions in Australia include:
- back pain
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- heart and cardiovascular conditions
- mental health disorders
Chronic conditions can affect people of all ages. They become more common with increasing age.
How are chronic health conditions managed?
Effective management of your chronic condition can help:
- improve your overall health and wellbeing
- prevent or delay complications
- slow the progression of your disease
What can I do to help manage my condition?
Learn as much as you can about your illness. Read widely, although be careful — not everything you read is true.
Learning about your condition will help you take control of your health and allow you to choose treatments that suit you. It will also help you ask the right questions of your doctor.
Being active in managing your condition and helping treat the symptoms can improve your quality of life.
Which health professionals can help manage my chronic health condition?
If you have a chronic illness, you will likely benefit from having a team of health professionals involved in your care.
Make sure you have a doctor who understands you and the way you live your life. Having one person who is central to your health care will make it much easier for you.
FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.
Ask your doctor for a Chronic Disease Management (CDM) plan. These plans provide a structured approach to managing your illness. They are agreed on between you and your doctor, and include ongoing care from a team of health professionals.
Specialist doctors and allied health care
Other healthcare professionals involved in your care might include specialists and allied health professionals. These may include the following.
- A social worker, who can provide counselling and information about government and community support services. Speak with your community health centre about how a social worker may be able to help you manage your chronic condition.
- A dietitian, who can provide expert nutrition and diet advice.
- An occupational therapist to help you maintain, regain or improve your independence.
- A physiotherapist if you have a problem with pain or movement.
- A psychologist to help you deal with the challenges of chronic illness.
How else can I help manage my chronic condition?
Having a healthy lifestyle can help you to manage your chronic condition. A healthy lifestyle includes:
- a good diet
- being as active as you can be
- getting enough sleep
- being a healthy weight
- not smoking
- minimising the amount of alcohol you drink
Understand your medicines and take them as prescribed.
If you are taking medicines for long periods, have your doctor review them regularly to make sure they are still appropriate.
Can chronic conditions affect mental health?
Being diagnosed and living with a chronic disease can be challenging. Chronic illness can affect both your physical and mental health, as well as your social and work life.
When first diagnosed, you may feel a range of emotions, including shock, anger, sadness or confusion. Ongoing feelings of stress and distress can increase your risk of developing anxiety or depression. Stress may also impact your chronic condition.
Talk to your doctor if you feel like you are not coping. It may help to see a psychologist to help you adapt to the challenges of having a chronic illness.
Where can I get support?
There is plenty of help and support available to help you manage your chronic condition. Sources of support can include:
- support groups and services
- self-management programs
- support for carers
You can join a support group or online forum to chat with people who have the same chronic condition as you.
Many organisations have these and will give you information about the best way to manage your chronic disease. Some of these organisations are listed below.
- Stroke Foundation
- Asthma Australia
- Arthritis Australia
- Diabetes Australia
- Heart Foundation
- Healthy Bones Australia
- Dementia Australia
You can find a list of resources to help manage chronic conditions on the Department of Health website.
Emotional support is available if you're stressed, anxious or depressed.
- You can phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24 hours a day), or text or chat online.
- You can phone Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 (24 hours a day) or use the webchat support service.
Self-management programs give you information and skills to help manage your illness. Contact your local government office or community health organisation to find one that suits you.
Support for carers
Carers of people with chronic conditions can also join self-management programs and support groups.
Carer Gateway offers emotional, practical and financial support and advice for all carers. Call toll free on 1800 422 737.
If you need help finding support services, talk to your doctor or call healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria).
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Last reviewed: September 2022