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4327.0 - National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Users' Guide, 2007  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/02/2009   
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9. POPULATION CHARACTERISTICS


OVERVIEW

In addition to the specific physical and mental health information collected, the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (SMHWB) provides a range of information on demographic and socio-economic characteristics. These characteristics can be linked with the health information to analyse the prevalence of mental disorders and physical conditions, disability and health service use for particular groups in the community. This chapter provides an overview of selected household and person characteristics.

A comprehensive list of the data items from the survey (in spreadsheet format) has been released with the Technical Manual on the ABS website <www.abs.gov.au>.

The survey collected basic demographic information from one usually resident household member aged 18 years or over for each person in the selected household. This information included:

  • age;
  • sex;
  • relationship in the household;
  • family composition;
  • marital status;
  • country of birth; and
  • year of arrival.

For people aged 15-24 years, the survey also asked whether they were a full-time student.


HOUSEHOLD CHARACTERISTICS

Based on the household demographic information, one person in the household aged 16-85 years was randomly selected to complete a personal interview. The selected person, or an elected household spokesperson, also answered some financial and housing items on behalf of other household members, including:
Additionally, the location of the selected household was used to derive:

Family composition of household

The family composition of household is derived from the information provided for all persons who usually live in, and the relationships between the persons within, the household. Family compositions include:
  • couple family with dependent children only;
  • couple family with dependent children and other persons;
  • one parent family with dependent children only;
  • one parent family with dependent children and other persons;
  • couple only;
  • other one family households;
  • multiple family households with dependent children;
  • multiple family households with no dependent children;
  • lone person household; and
  • group household.


Tenure type

Tenure type gives an indication of the stability of living arrangements for persons in a household or dwelling. For instance, a family may have better financial security if their house is owned outright, rather than being paid off or rented, as both of these situations are subject to possible financial fluctuation (eg interest rates or rent rises).

The household spokesperson was asked about the type of dwelling tenure and whether the dwelling was:
  • being paid off;
  • owned outright;
  • being rented; or
  • being purchased under a rent/buy or shared equity scheme.

If none of these tenure types were endorsed, the household spokesperson was asked if they (or their spouse/partner/parent):
  • occupied the dwelling under a life tenure scheme;
  • paid board; or
  • lived in the dwelling rent free.


Household income

The amount of income a person has access to is an important component of their economic resources. While income is usually received by individuals, it is normally shared between partners in a couple relationship and with any dependent children. To a lesser degree, there may be sharing with other members of the household. Even when there is no transfer of income between members of a household, nor provision of free or cheap accommodation, members are still likely to benefit from the economies of scale that arise from the sharing of dwellings.

In this survey, household income is derived from the income of all usual residents in the dwelling aged 15 years and over. The household spokesperson provided this information on behalf of the other household members. The following information was collected for each household member:
  • whether they received an income;
  • their main source of income; and
  • the amount they received before tax was taken out.

The main sources of income include:
  • wages or salary;
  • profit or loss from own unincorporated business or share in a partnership;
  • any government pension or allowance; or
  • any other regular source of income.

Income deciles

Information on gross personal income (ie pre-tax income) for each member of the household was used to create household income. Household income data, both gross weekly cash and equivalised, are available in dollar amounts or in deciles. Deciles are groupings that result from ranking all households in the population in ascending order according to some characteristic, such as income, and then dividing the population into 10 equal groups, each comprising 10% of the estimated population. The first decile contains the bottom 10%, the second decile contains the next 10% and so on. The following table presents the dollar amount cut-offs for each decile.

11. GROSS WEEKLY CASH INCOME OF HOUSEHOLDS, by decile ranges

From
To
Decile
$
$

1st
<399
2nd
399
576
3rd
577
843
4th
844
1 084
5th
1 085
1 360
6th
1 361
1 642
7th
1 643
2 017
8th
2 018
2 539
9th
2 540
3 321
10th
>3 321


Equivalised income

Equivalence scales are used to make adjustments to the actual incomes of households so that the relative wellbeing of households of differing sizes and compositions are able to be compared. For example, it would be expected that a two-person household would usually need more income than a lone person household, if the two households are to enjoy the same standard of living.

Equivalised income is calculated by deriving an equivalence factor according to the chosen equivalence scale, and then dividing income by the factor. The equivalence factor, derived using the 'modified OECD' equivalence scale, is determined by allocating the following points to each person in a household:
  • the first adult in the household is given a weight of 1 point;
  • each additional person 15 years or older is allocated 0.5 points; and
  • each child under 15 years is allocated 0.3 points.

Equivalised household income is derived by dividing the total household income by a factor equal to the sum of the equivalence points allocated to the household members. The equivalised income of a lone person household is the same as its unequivalised income. The equivalised income of a household comprising more than one person lies between the total value and the per capita value of its unequivalised income.

When unequivalised household income is negative, such as when a loss is reported for an individual's unincorporated business or other investment income, and this loss is greater than the positive income from other sources, then equivalised household income is set to zero.

The following table presents the dollar amount cut-offs for each decile.

12. GROSS WEEKLY EQUIVALISED INCOME OF HOUSEHOLDS, by decile ranges

From
To
Decile
$
$

1st
<277
2nd
278
359
3rd
360
479
4th
480
613
5th
614
755
6th
756
897
7th
898
1 064
8th
1 065
1 303
9th
1 304
1 713
10th
>1 713


Income not reported

If more than one contributing person record in a household had a value of 'Not known', then household income and derived income deciles were set to 'Not known/no income reported', as it was not possible to derive an accurate total.


Household financial stress

Measures of income and expenditure do not necessarily provide the whole story of people's capacity to maintain living standards and meet household needs. Households may choose to go without certain goods or services, draw down savings, or take on debts in order to maintain other spending or meet urgent financial commitments.

To give an indication of whether a household had experienced financial stress in the 12 months prior to interview, the survey asked about situations which may have occurred because of a shortage of money. The household spokesperson was asked to choose one or more responses from the following list:
  • could not pay electricity, gas or telephone bills on time;
  • could not pay for car registration or insurance on time;
  • pawned or sold something;
  • went without meals;
  • unable to heat the house;
  • sought assistance from welfare/community organisations;
  • sought financial help from friends or family; or
  • none of the above.


Geographic characteristics

Geographic characteristics are classified through a hierarchical system of geographical areas under the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (cat. no. 1216.0). Each geographical area consists of a number of interrelated structures.

For this survey, the location of the selected household was used to determine several geographic characteristics, including state/territory, remoteness, section of state and part of state.

State and territory

States and territories are the largest units in the geographical classification. State/territory units are political entities with fixed boundaries. This survey recognised the following units:
  • New South Wales (NSW);
  • Victoria (Vic);
  • Queensland (QLD);
  • South Australia (SA);
  • Western Australia (WA);
  • Tasmania (Tas);
  • Northern Territory (NT); and
  • Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

Remoteness

The remoteness structure contains three hierarchical levels:
  • Collection Districts (CDs);
  • Remoteness Areas (RAs); and
  • State/Territory.

There are six classes within this structure, which when aggregated, cover the whole of Australia. The levels of remoteness are:
  • major cities;
  • inner regional;
  • outer regional;
  • remote; and
  • very remote.

Section of state

Section of state uses population counts from the most recent Census of Population and Housing to classify Collection Districts as urban or rural. The different sections are:
  • major urban - more than 100,000 population;
  • other urban - 1,000 to 99,999 population;
  • bounded locality - 200 to 999 population; and
  • rural balance - remainder of state/territory population.

Part of state

Each of the states and territories may be classified into two parts, or part of state, based on the household's location:
  • Capital city; or
  • Balance of state - elsewhere in the state.

Due to the small populations of the NT and ACT, these were not divided into parts. The NT was classified as 'Balance of state' and the ACT as 'Capital city'.


Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA)

Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) is a suite of four summary measures compiled by the ABS using information collected in the 2006 Census of Population and Housing. These four measures are the:
  • Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage;
  • Index of Relative Socio-economic Advantage and Disadvantage;
  • Index of Economic Resources; and
  • Index of Education and Occupation.

Each index summarises a different aspect of the socio-economic conditions in an area, and therefore summarises a different set of social and economic information. For each index, every geographic area in Australia is given a SEIFA number which shows how relatively 'disadvantaged' that area is compared with other areas in Australia.

This survey provides an index number for each summary measure in deciles by Collection District (CD) and Statistical Local Area (SLA). For more details on SEIFA refer to Information Paper: An Introduction to Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), 2006 (cat. no. 2039.0).


SELECTED PERSON CHARACTERISTICS

As outlined earlier, from the household demographic information one person aged 16-85 years was randomly selected to complete a personal interview. The following information was collected from this selected person (the respondent):

Education

Education can be broadly defined as the lifetime process of obtaining knowledge, attitudes, skills, and socially valued qualities of character and behaviour. Education generally involves the intent of learning and some exchange of communication. This survey included a standard set of ABS questions on educational attainment, which are used in the Monthly Population Survey and other Special Social Surveys.

Current studies

The respondent was asked if they were attending secondary school, or whether they were a full-time student at a TAFE, university or other educational institution at the time of the interview. The respondent was also asked if they were taking any course of study for a trade certificate, diploma, degree or any other educational qualification at the time of the interview and if so, whether they were studying full-time or part-time.

Level of highest non-school qualification

The level of highest non-school qualification is the highest level of educational attainment above secondary school (ie above Year 12). The level is determined through the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), 2001 (cat. no. 1272.0).

ASCED provides a framework for statistical and administrative data on educational activity and attainment in Australia. It does not consider unstructured, unplanned or incidental learning activities. ASCED includes two component classifications:
  • Level of Education; and
  • Field of Education.

ASCED replaces the ABS Classification of Qualifications (ABSCQ) which was used in the 1997 survey.

Level of education

Level of education is measured in terms of the following criteria:
  • the theoretical/vocational orientation of the educational activity;
  • the minimum entry requirements for the educational activity (ie the minimum amount of prior education needed to undertake the educational activity at that level); and
  • the program length or notional duration of the educational activity.

Non-school qualifications are awarded for educational attainments other than those of pre-primary, primary or secondary education. Non-school qualifications may be attained concurrently with school qualifications. The levels of qualification from highest to lowest are:
  • Doctorate (including PhD);
  • Master degree;
  • Graduate diploma;
  • Graduate certificate;
  • Bachelor degree with honours;
  • Bachelor degree;
  • Associate degree;
  • Advanced diploma;
  • Diploma;
  • Associate diploma;
  • Advanced certificate;
  • Certificate IV (or Post-trade);
  • Certificate III (or Trade);
  • Certificate II; and
  • Certificate I.

The completion of a qualification refers to successfully passing the required assessment or examination. It does not mean having graduated or having attended all classes.

Field of education

Field of education is the subject matter of an educational activity and is measured in terms of the following criteria:
  • theoretical content;
  • purpose of learning;
  • objects of interest;
  • methods and techniques; and
  • tools and equipment.

For this survey, the field of education relates to the main field of the highest qualification completed. There are 12 broad fields of education, including: health, management and commerce, and information technology.


Labour force status

A reduced set of questions from the ABS monthly Labour Force Survey were used to collect information on the labour force status of the selected person. Based on the information provided, the person was classified as:
  • Employed;
  • Unemployed; or
  • Not in the Labour Force.

More details on these classifications are provided below.

Employed

An employed person is a person who, during the survey reference week:
  • worked for one hour or more for pay, profit, commission or payment in kind, in a job or business or on a farm (comprising employees, employers and own account workers);
  • worked for one hour or more without pay in a family business or on a farm (ie contributing family workers);
  • were employees who had a job but were not at work and were:
      • away from work for less than four weeks up to the end of the reference week; or
      • away from work for more than four weeks up to the end of the reference week and received pay for some or all of the four week period to the end of the reference week; or
      • away from work as a standard work or shift arrangement; or
      • on strike or locked out; or
      • on workers' compensation and expected to return to their job; or
  • were employers or own account workers who had a job, business or farm, but were not at work.

Based on the hours worked in all jobs, employed people were classified as either part-time or full-time workers.

Part-time workers

Employed people who usually worked less than 35 hours a week (in all jobs).

Full-time workers

Employed people who usually worked 35 hours or more a week (in all jobs).

Occupation

An occupation is a collection of jobs that are sufficiently similar in their title and tasks, skill level and skill specialisation which have been grouped together for the purposes of classification. Based on a description of the type of work performed by the respondent in their main job (ie the job in which they usually worked the most hours) a code was assigned as their occupation of employment.

For this survey, occupations have been classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), First Edition, 2006 and the Australian Standard Classification of Occupations (ASCO), Second Edition, 1997 (cat. no. 1220.0). The major groups of occupations according to ANZSCO are:
  • Managers;
  • Professionals;
  • Technicians and trades workers;
  • Community and personal service workers;
  • Clerical and administrative workers;
  • Sales workers;
  • Machinery operators and drivers; and
  • Labourers.

More detailed occupation data may also be available on request.

Industry

An industry is a group of businesses or organisations that undertake similar economic activities to produce goods and services. Based on a description of the type of work performed by the respondent in their main job (the job in which they usually worked the most hours) a code was assigned as their industry of employment.

For this survey, industries have been classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 and the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC),1993 (cat. no. 1292.0). The industry divisions according to ANZSIC 2006 are:
  • Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
  • Mining;
  • Manufacturing;
  • Electricity, gas, water and waste services;
  • Construction;
  • Wholesale trade;
  • Retail trade;
  • Accommodation and food services;
  • Transport, postal and warehousing;
  • Information media and telecommunications;
  • Financial and insurance services;
  • Rental, hiring and real estate services;
  • Professional, scientific and technical services;
  • Administrative and support services;
  • Public administration and safety;
  • Education and training;
  • Health care and social assistance;
  • Arts and recreation services; and
  • Other services.

More detailed industry data may also be available on request.

Unemployed

An unemployed person is a person who was not employed during the survey reference week, and:
  • had actively looked for full-time or part-time work at any time in the four weeks up to the end of the reference week and were available for work in the reference week; or
  • were waiting to start a new job within four weeks from the end of the reference week and could have started in the reference week if the job had been available then.

Not in the labour force

Persons not in the labour force are those respondents who were not defined as either employed or unemployed during the survey reference week. These people are of interest as they reflect the potential supply of labour. Persons not in the labour force represent a diverse group, including those who have some attachment to the labour force, such as:
  • people who want to work, are actively looking for work, but are not able to start work in the reference week; and
  • people who want to work, are not actively looking for work, but are available to start work within four weeks of the reference week.

Persons not in the labour force also includes people who:
  • do not want to work; and
  • want to work, but are not actively looking for work and are not available to start work within four weeks of the reference week.


Personal income

Income is important in understanding mental health and wellbeing, as it may influence a person's capacity to access services. This survey collected information on the respondent's source/s of income and the amount/s received before tax was taken out. The sources of income included:
  • profit or loss from own unincorporated business or share in a partnership;
  • profit or loss from rental properties;
  • dividends or interest;
  • wages/salary (including from own unincorporated business);
  • government pension or allowance;
  • child support or maintenance;
  • superannuation or annuity;
  • workers' compensation; or
  • any other regular source.

Where the respondent had more than one source of income, they were also asked to nominate their main source of income.

Government pensions, allowances or benefits

If the source of income was a government pension or allowance, the respondent was asked to select the type of assistance being received from the list below. Only one of these types of benefits could be received for any single period.
  • Australian age pension;
  • Newstart allowance;
  • Mature age allowance;
  • Service pension (DVA) (exclude superannuation);
  • Disability support pension (Centrelink);
  • Wife pension;
  • Carer payment;
  • Sickness allowance/benefit;
  • Widow allowance/benefit;
  • Widow B pension (Centrelink);
  • Special benefit; or
  • Partner allowance.

It is possible for some types of pensions or benefits to be received at the same time, or in addition to the pensions and benefits outlined in the list above. Therefore, respondents were also asked if they received any of the following:
  • Family tax benefit;
  • Parenting payment;
  • War widow(er)'s pension (DVA);
  • Disability pension (DVA);
  • Carer allowance;
  • Child disability allowance;
  • Youth allowance;
  • Austudy;
  • Abstudy; or
  • Overseas pensions/benefits.

Income deciles

Information on gross personal income (ie pre-tax income) is available as dollar amounts or in deciles. Deciles are groupings that result from ranking all persons in the population in ascending order according to some characteristic, such as income, and then dividing the population into 10 equal groups, each comprising 10% of the estimated population. The first decile contains the bottom 10%, the second decile contains the next 10% and so on. The following table presents the dollar amount cut-offs for each decile.

13. GROSS WEEKLY PERSONAL CASH INCOME, by decile ranges

From
To
Decile
$
$

1st
<152
2nd
153
229
3rd
230
299
4th
300
432
5th
433
599
6th
600
760
7th
761
958
8th
959
1 188
9th
1 189
1 639
10th
>1 640


Income not reported

If more than one contributing income item had a value of 'Not known', then totals derived from these items, such as 'Gross weekly personal income' were also set to 'Not known', as it was not possible to derive an accurate total.


Country of birth and year of arrival

Country of birth and year of arrival information was collected for each person in the household. The survey questionnaire listed the 10 most frequently reported countries. If the reported country was not among those listed, the details were recorded for subsequent coding. All responses were classified according to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 1998 (cat. no. 1269.0).

The major groups of countries are:
  • Oceania and Antarctica;
  • North-West Europe;
  • Southern and Eastern Europe;
  • North Africa and the Middle East;
  • South-East Asia;
  • North-East Asia;
  • Southern and Central Asia;
  • Americas; or
  • Sub-Saharan Africa.

If a person was born overseas, they were asked to provide their year of arrival as a numeric response. This refers to the year when a person first arrived to live in Australia for one year or more.

Additionally, the respondent was asked about the country of birth of their mother and father. These details were recorded and categorised as above.


Language mainly spoken at home

The respondent was asked to nominate the language they mainly spoke at home. The survey questionnaire listed the 10 most frequently reported languages spoken at home. If the reported language was not among those listed, the details were recorded for subsequent coding. If a person spoke more than one language, they were asked to select the one they spoke most often. All responses were classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL), 2005-06 (cat. no. 1267.0).

The broad groups of languages are:
  • Northern European;
  • Southern European;
  • Eastern European;
  • Southwest and Central Asian;
  • Southern Asian;
  • Southeast Asian;
  • Eastern Asian; and
  • Australian Indigenous.

If the respondent mainly spoke a language other than English, they were then asked to rate their proficiency in English using the following scale:
  • very well;
  • well;
  • not well; or
  • not at all.

Note that proxy, interpreted or foreign language interviews were not conducted. For more information see 'Interviews' in Chapter 2.


Marital status

This survey collected information on marital status for each person in the household. The response categories were as follows:
  • never married;
  • widowed;
  • divorced;
  • separated;
  • married (registered marriage);
  • other - de facto; or
  • other - single/not married.

If a person reported being in a de facto relationship, or being single/not married, they were then asked if they had ever been in a registered marriage. If a person had been in a registered marriage they were subsequently asked if they had ever been widowed, divorced or separated.

The responses were used to create two output categories:

Registered marital status
  • never married;
  • widowed;
  • divorced;
  • separated; or
  • married (registered marriage).

and

Social marital status
  • registered marriage;
  • de facto marriage; or
  • not married.

The respondent was asked to provide some additional information on their marital status, if they reported being widowed, divorced or separated. They were asked how long ago (in months or years) they separated from their last husband/wife or were widowed in their last marriage.


Sexual orientation

Due to perceived links between sexual orientation and mental health, this survey included a question on sexual orientation. The respondent was asked which of the following best described their sexual orientation at the time of interview:
  • heterosexual - a sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex only;
  • homosexual - a sexual attraction to people of the same sex only; or
  • bisexual - a sexual attraction to people of both sexes (opposite sex and same sex).


Homelessness

Due to perceived links between homelessness and mental health, this survey included questions on homelessness. The respondent was asked if they had ever been homeless and if so, the total duration of all homeless experiences.

Being homeless includes:
  • sleeping on the street, in doorways and alleys, on park benches or behind bushes;
  • 'substandard housing', where someone is staying in a homeless shelter, a tent, or an abandoned building; or
  • 'couch surfing' or staying with a series of friends or family, where the person had no choice, no privacy, no place that was 'theirs' or they were uncertain how long each couch was available.


Incarceration

Due to perceived links between incarceration and mental health, this survey included questions on incarceration. The respondent was asked if they had ever spent time in a gaol, prison or correctional facility and if so, the total duration of all incarceration experiences.


Australian Defence Force service

Research has shown links between mental health and service in the Defence Forces, particularly in relation to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Due to these perceived links, this survey included questions on service. The respondent was asked if they had ever served for the Australian Defence Forces. Service included:
  • overseas qualifying service (ie served in a war or peacekeeping operations); and
  • serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force members.

Members of the Army Reserve were excluded.

The respondent was also asked if they were receiving or had received a benefit from the Department of Veterans' Affairs. This included:
  • payments to veterans, their dependants or war widows; and
  • one-off payments for a service related injury or ongoing payments and rehabilitation.


COMPARISON WITH THE 1997 SURVEY

The following table highlights the main differences between the topics covered in this chapter for the 1997 and 2007 surveys. More detailed information on the 1997 population characteristics is provided in the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing of Adults: Users' Guide, 1997 (cat. no. 4327.0).

14. COMPARISON WITH THE 1997 SURVEY, by population characteristics

1997 survey 2007 survey

Household characteristics

Topics covered in the survey instrument include: Topics covered in the survey instrument include:
Household details Household details
Household demographic characteristics Household demographic characteristics
Tenure type Tenure type
Geography Geography
- Gross weekly cash income of households
- Gross weekly equivalised income of households
- Financial stress

Demographic and other characteristics

Sex Sex
Age (18 years and over) Age (16-85 years)
Country of birth Country of birth
Year of arrival Year of arrival
Marital status (combined social and registered) Registered marital status
- Social marital status
Number of times married -
Number of children -
Age when child/ren born (only/oldest/youngest) -
- Sexual orientation
- Country of birth of mother and father
Language usually spoken at home Language mainly spoken at home
- Proficiency in spoken English
- Whether ever served in the Australian Defence Forces
- Whether ever received a Department of Veterans' Affairs benefit
- Homelessness
- Incarceration

Education

Whether attending school Whether attending school
Whether completed secondary school Highest year of school completed
Whether completed qualifications since leaving school Whether has a non-school qualification
Highest qualification Level of highest non-school qualification
- Main field of highest non-school qualification
- Highest level of post-school educational attainment
Whether currently studying Whether currently studying full-time or part-time
Data items were classified using the ABS Classification of Qualifications (ABSCQ). Data items have changed since 1997 as a result of a change in the standard classification of educational attainment. In 2001 the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED) replaced the ABSCQ as the national standard classification.

Employment

Labour force status Labour force status
Hours usually worked each week (all jobs) Hours usually worked each week (all jobs)
Occupation (main job) Occupation (main job)
- Industry (main job)
Duration of unemployment -
Multiple job holders -
A redesign of the Labour Force Survey in 2001 saw a change of classification for persons who were unemployed or not in the labour force.
Occupation (main job) was classified by the Australian Standard Classification of Occupations (ASCO), First edition, 1986. Occupation (main job) was classified by the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), First Edition, 2006.
Industry (main job) was classified by the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006.

Personal income

Sources of income Sources of income
Main source of income Main source of income
- Gross weekly personal cash income
- Type of government pension/allowance received



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