4827.0.55.001 - The Health of Older People, Australia, 2001  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 10/11/2004   
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  • Glossary

Alcohol risk level

Adults were classified by 'alcohol risk level' based on their estimated average daily alcohol consumption in the 7 days prior to interview. Average daily consumption in the previous 7 days was estimated using two components:

  • the number of days on which the respondent reported consuming alcohol in the previous week
  • the quantity consumed on the three most recent days on which they consumed alcohol in that week. For people who drank on no more than 3 days in the last week, their daily average was simply the total consumed divided by 7.

Risk levels are based on the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), 2001, Australian Alcohol Guidelines: Health Risks and Benefits (www.nhmrc.gov.au) risk levels for harm in the long term, and assumes the level of alcohol consumption recorded for the survey period is typical. The average daily consumption of alcohol associated with the risk levels is as follows:



Low risk
50ml or less
25ml or less
More than 50ml, up to 75ml
More than 25ml, up to 50ml
High risk
More than 75ml
More than 50ml

Drinking status information was also collected for those who did not consume any alcohol in the 7 days prior to interview:
  • Last consumed more than one week to less than 12 months ago
  • Last consumed 2 months or more ago
  • Never consumed.

Ancillary cover

Any cover provided by private insurance organisations for health-related services other than medical or hospital cover (e.g. physiotherapy, dental, optical, chiropractic and ambulance).

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Calculated from self-reported height and weight information, using the formula weight (kg) divided by the square of height (m).

To produce a measure of the prevalence of overweight or obesity in adults, BMI values are grouped according to the table below which allows categories to be reported against both WHO and NHMRC guidelines.

BMI range


Less than 18.5
Normal range
18.5 to less than 20.0
Normal range
20.0 to less than 25.0
25.0 to less than 30.0
30.0 and greater

Cardiovascular conditions

See Circulatory problems/diseases.


A person of any age who provides any informal assistance, in terms of help or supervision, to persons with disabilities or long-term conditions, or older persons (i.e. aged 60 years and over). This assistance has to be ongoing, or likely to be ongoing, for at least six months. Assistance to a person in a different household relates to 'everyday types of activities', without specific information on the activities. Where the care recipient lives in the same household, the assistance is for one or more of the following activities:

  • cognition or emotion
  • communication
  • health care
  • housework
  • meal preparation
  • mobility
  • paperwork
  • property maintenance
  • self care
  • transport.

Circulatory problems/diseases

Covers all diseases and related problems of the circulatory system. Includes specific conditions such as hypertension, angina, tachycardia, oedema, haemorrhoids, varicose veins and cardiac murmurs.

Core-activity limitation

Four levels of core-activity limitation are determined based on whether a person needs help, has difficulty, or uses aids or equipment with any of the core activities (communication, mobility or self care). A person's overall level of core-activity limitation is determined by their highest level of limitation in these activities.

The four levels of limitation are:

  • profound: the person is unable to do, or always needs help with, a core-activity task
  • severe: the person
      • sometimes needs help with a core-activity task
      • has difficulty understanding or being understood by family or friends
      • can communicate more easily using sign language or other non-spoken forms of communication.
  • moderate: the person needs no help but has difficulty with a core-activity task
  • mild: the person needs no help and has no difficulty with any of the core-activity tasks, but
      • uses aids and equipment
      • cannot easily walk 200 metres
      • cannot walk up and down stairs without a handrail
      • cannot easily bend to pick up an object from the floor
      • cannot use public transport
      • can use public transport but needs help or supervision
      • needs no help or supervision but has difficulty using public transport.


In the context of health experience, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) defines disability as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. It denotes the negative aspects of the interaction between an individual (with a health condition) and that individual's contextual factors (environment and personal factors).

In the 2003 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, a person has a disability if they report that they have a limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months and restricts everyday activities. This includes:

  • loss of sight (not corrected by glasses or contact lenses)
  • loss of hearing where communication is restricted, or an aid to assist with, or substitute for, hearing is used
  • speech difficulties
  • shortness of breath or breathing difficulties causing restriction
  • chronic or recurrent pain or discomfort causing restriction
  • blackouts, fits, or loss of consciousness
  • difficulty learning or understanding
  • incomplete use of arms or fingers
  • difficulty gripping or holding things
  • incomplete use of feet or legs
  • nervous or emotional condition causing restriction
  • restriction in physical activities or in doing physical work
  • disfigurement or deformity
  • mental illness or condition requiring help or supervision
  • long-term effects of head injury, stroke or other brain damage causing restriction
  • receiving treatment or medication for any other long-term conditions or ailments and still restricted
  • any other long-term conditions resulting in a restriction.

Equivalised income

Equivalising adjusts actual income to take account of the different needs of households of different size and composition. See equivalence scales.

Equivalence scales

Equivalence scales have been devised to make adjustments to the actual incomes of households in a way that enables analysis of the relative wellbeing of households of different size and composition. For example, it would be expected that a household comprising two people would normally need more income than a lone person household if the two households are to enjoy the same standard of living. The equivalence scale used to obtain equivalised incomes is the modified method used in studies by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). For further information, see Household Income and Income Distribution, Australia, 2000-01 (Cat.no.6523.0), Appendix 2.

Exercise level

Based on frequency, intensity (i.e. walking, moderate exercise and vigorous exercise) and duration of exercise (for recreation, sport or fitness) in the 2 weeks prior to interview. From these components, an exercise score was derived using factors to represent the intensity of the exercise. Scores were grouped for output as follows:



Physically inactive
Less than 100 (includes no exercise)
100 to less than 1,600
1,600-3,200, or more than 3,200 but less than two hours of vigorous exercise
More than 3,200 and two hours or more of vigorous exercise

Government health concession cards

Includes Health Care Card, Pensioner Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and treatment entitlement cards issued by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Hospital cover

Health insurance provided by private insurance organisations to cover all or part of the costs of private accommodation in a public hospital, charges for private hospital treatment and care in a public hospital by a doctor of the patient's choice.


An arterial disease of which the elevation of blood pressure is the outstanding sign.

Life satisfaction

In the 2001 National Health Survey, life satisfaction was measured by asking respondents' how they felt about their life as a whole, taking into account events of the last year and their expectations for the future. Responses were to correspond with one of the following:

1 - Delighted

2 - Pleased

3 - Mostly satisfied

4 - Mixed

5 - Mostly dissatisfied

6 - Unhappy

7 - Terrible

Long term condition

A condition which was current at the time of the survey and which, in the respondent's opinion, had lasted for 6 months or more, or which he or she expected will last for 6 months or more. Some conditions reported were assumed to be long term conditions: these included asthma, cancer, diabetes insipidus, diabetes mellitus types 1 and 2, rheumatic heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Physical activity

Refers to exercise undertaken in the two weeks prior to interview through sport, recreation or fitness (including walking). Incidental exercise undertaken for other reasons, such as for work or while engaged in domestic duties was excluded. See exercise level.

Psychological distress

Derived from the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale 10 items (K10). This is a scale of non-specific psychological distress based on 10 questions about negative emotional states in the 4 weeks prior to interview. The K10 is scored from 10 to 50, with higher scores indicating a higher level of distress; low scores indicate a low level of distress. In this publication scores are grouped as follows:

  • Low (10 - 15)
  • Moderate (16 - 21)
  • High (22 - 29)
  • Very high (30 - 50).


When persons (or any other units) are ranked from the lowest to the highest on the basis of some characteristic such as their household income, they can then be divided into equal sized groups. When the population is divided into five equally sized groups, the groups are called quintiles.

Self assessed health status

Refers to respondent's general assessment of own health, against a 5 point scale from excellent through to poor.

Smoker status

Refers to the smoking status of adults at the time of the survey, and incorporates the notion of (regular) smoking, as reported by respondents.

Categories are:

  • Current regular (i.e. daily) smoker
  • Current smoker not regular
  • Ex-regular smoker;
  • Never smoked regularly.

Smoking refers to the regular smoking of tobacco, including manufactured (packet) cigarettes, roll your own cigarettes, cigars and pipes, but excludes chewing tobacco and smoking of non tobacco products.

Type of medication used for mental well-being

Refers to the type of medication reported by adult respondents as used for their mental well-being in the 2 weeks prior to interview. Includes vitamins and minerals, natural and herbal medications and the following types of pharmaceutical medications:

  • sleeping tablets/capsules
  • tablets/capsules for anxiety or nerves
  • tranquillisers
  • antidepressants
  • mood stabilizers
  • other medications for mental health.