4727.0.55.003 - Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Biomedical Results, 2012-13  
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ANAEMIA

Anaemia is caused by a decrease in either the number of red blood cells in the body or the quantity of haemoglobin within red blood cells. When a person is anaemic, their heart has to work harder to ensure that muscles and organs get the oxygen they need. Haemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells. It contains a large amount of iron and helps transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Measures Survey (NATSIHMS) measured the concentration of haemoglobin in the blood, which can help diagnose anaemia.

    Data source and definitions

    Haemoglobin levels were measured using a blood test. Abnormal levels of haemoglobin indicating a risk of anaemia are defined differently for males and females, young people, and pregnant women, as based on World Health Organization guidelines1:

    • Less than 120 g/L for females aged 15 years or older who are not pregnant
    • Less than 130 g/L for males aged 15 years or older
    • Less than 110 g/L for pregnant women

In 2012–13, 7.6% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults were at risk of anaemia. After taking age differences into account, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were almost twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to be at risk (rate ratio of 1.9).

Overall, the risk of anaemia was higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote areas compared with those living in non-remote areas (10.1% compared with 6.9%). Research suggests that poor nutrition and poor supply of healthy food contributes to chronic diseases such as anaemia, particularly in remote Australia.2

As was the case in the non-Indigenous population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were more likely than men to be at risk of anaemia (10.3% compared with 4.8%). Although the overall age pattern for anaemia was similar for both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous populations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were at a higher risk of anaemia than their non-Indigenous counterparts in most age groups.


Graph Image for Persons aged 18 years and over - Proportion at risk of anaemia by age and Indigenous status, 2011-13

Source(s): Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Biomedical Results



Research has shown that anaemia is associated with both diabetes and chronic kidney disease.3 This was reflected in the NATSIHMS results, where 29.6% of those at risk of anaemia had diabetes compared with 9.7% of those not at risk. Those at risk of anaemia were also more likely to have signs of chronic kidney disease (41.9% compared with 15.8%).

For more information on anaemia, see Tables 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 on the Downloads page of this publication.



ENDNOTES

1 World Health Organization (WHO) 2011, Haemoglobin concentrations for the diagnosis of anaemia and assessment of severity, Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition Information System, <http://www.who.int/vmnis/indicators/haemoglobin/en/>,
2 Council of Australian Governments, 2009, National Strategy For Food Security In Remote Indigenous Communities, <https://www.coag.gov.au/sites/default/files/nat_strat_food_security.pdf>,
3 Mehdi, U & Toto, RD 2009, 'Anemia, Diabetes, and Chronic Kidney Disease', Diabetes Care, <http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/32/7/1320.short>, Back to top