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4364.0 - National Health Survey: Summary of Results, 2004-05  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/02/2006   
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MEDIA RELEASE

February 27, 2006
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)
18/2006
National Health Survey shows mixed results

More Australian adults were overweight or obese and more drank alcohol at risky or high risk levels in 2004-5 than in 2001, according to results from the 2004-05 Australian Bureau of Statistics National Health Survey.

In 2004-05 the majority of Australians aged 15 years and over considered their health to be very good or excellent (up from 52% in 2001).

Main findings include:

Overweight: When body mass index was calculated from reported height and weight, 62% of men and 45% of women were classified in the overweight or obese groups. However, only 32% of men and 37% of women assessed themselves as being overweight. For both men and women the proportions classified as overweight or obese were highest in the middle age groups (72% of men and 58% of women aged 55 to 64 years were overweight or obese). Among women aged 18-24 years, 10% had a body mass index which would classify them as underweight.
        The proportion of adults classified as overweight or obese increased over the last ten years: for men from 52% to 62% and for women from 37% to 45%.
Alcohol: The majority of adults (71% of men and 54% of women) had consumed alcohol in the week prior to interview, and most of these (78%) had consumed alcohol at a level which would constitute a low risk to their health. The proportion of adults who had consumed alcohol at levels which, if continued, would be risky or a high risk to their health was 13%, compared with 11% in 2001. For both men and women, the highest proportions drinking at risky or high risk levels were recorded in the middle age groups; for example, 18% of men and 13% of women in the 55-64 year age group.

Smoking: Approximately one in four adults (23%) were smokers in 2004-5 and in 2001. More men than women were current smokers (26% and 20% respectively) and for both men and women the prevalence of smoking was highest in the younger age groups (34% of men and 26% of women aged 18-34 years smoked).

Exercise: Two thirds of adults (66%) had exercised for recreation, sport or fitness in the two weeks prior to interview, similar to the 2001 NHS result. Almost half (49%) reported they had walked for exercise, 36% exercised at a moderate level and 15% did vigorous exercise. Men were more likely to do moderate or vigorous exercise than women, while women were more likely to walk for exercise than men. Moderate and vigorous exercise was most common among younger age groups, while the highest proportions walking for exercise were recorded for the 55-64 and 65-74 year age groups (around 54%).

Other findings from the survey include:
  • In 2004-05, 77% of the population reported that they had at least one long-term medical condition, similar to the result in 2001. Among children, respiratory conditions were the most common, with asthma the most prevalent among children aged less than 15 years (15%). Hay fever and allergic rhinitis was the most prevalent long-term condition for young people aged 15 to 24 years (19%).
  • Sight conditions, arthritis, hearing loss and high blood pressure were the most common conditions in age groups 65 years and over. In the 65 years and over age group just under half (49%) reported they had arthritis, 14% reported they had diabetes mellitus, and 18% reported a heart, stroke or vascular disease.
  • High or very high levels of psychological distress were recorded for 13% of the adult population, similar to the levels recorded in 2001. Of all those who recorded high to very high levels of distress, 59% were female.
  • Nearly one quarter (23%) of people living in private dwellings had consulted a doctor in the two weeks prior to interview, 6% had consulted a dentist and 14% had consulted another health professional, similar to results in 2001. Of those consulting a health professional other than a doctor or dentist, 29% consulted a chemist, 16% consulted a physiotherapist and 16% consulted a chiropractor.
  • Around half of the population aged 15 years and over had private health insurance. Of those with private insurance, 75% had both hospital and ancillary cover, 17% had hospital-only cover and 7% had ancillary-only cover. The highest level of coverage was recorded in the 45-54 and 55-64 year age groups (61%) while the lowest was in the 25-34 year and 75 years and over age groups (around 41% had some form of private health insurance). The most common reason for not having private health insurance was "can't afford it/too expensive", reported by 64% of those without private cover.

Further details are in National Health Survey: Summary of Results, Australia 2004-5 (cat. no. 4364.0). Results for states and ACT are available to media on request.

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