Prevalence and predictors of advance directives in Australia

Intern Med J. 2014 Oct;44(10):975-80. doi: 10.1111/imj.12549.


Background: Advance care planning is regarded as integral to better patient outcomes, yet little is known about the prevalence of advance directives (AD) in Australia.

Aim: To determine the prevalence of AD in the Australian population.

Methods: A national telephone survey about estate and advance planning. Sample was stratified by age (18-45 and >45 years) and quota sampling occurred based on population size in each state and territory.

Results: Fourteen per cent of the Australian population has an AD. There is state variation with people from South Australia and Queensland more likely to have an AD than people from other states. Will making and particularly completion of a financial enduring power of attorney are associated with higher rates of AD completion. Standard demographic variables were of limited use in predicting whether a person would have an AD.

Conclusions: Despite efforts to improve uptake of advance care planning (including AD), barriers remain. One likely trigger for completing an AD and advance care planning is undertaking a wider future planning process (e.g. making a will or financial enduring power of attorney). This presents opportunities to increase advance care planning, but steps are needed to ensure that planning, which occurs outside the health system, is sufficiently informed and supported by health information so that it is useful in the clinical setting. Variations by state could also suggest that redesign of regulatory frameworks (such as a user-friendly and well-publicised form backed by statute) may help improve uptake of AD.

Keywords: advance care planning; advance directive; end-of-life decision-making; medical law.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Advance Care Planning* / statistics & numerical data
  • Advance Directives* / statistics & numerical data
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Policy Making
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • Professional Role
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Surveys and Questionnaires