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Newsletters - Age Matters - Issue Number 2, April 2003



Welcome to the second edition of Age Matters, the quarterly newsletter from the ABS National Ageing Statistics Unit. This edition focuses on data emerging from the 2001 Census, and a range of other new and existing ABS data sources which have an ageing component likely to be of interest to ageing researchers and policy makers. Interested readers are also invited to visit the Ageing theme page on the ABS website for links to ageing-relevant ABS datasets and other web sites (see
Where can you find us? for details). Feedback or suggestions regarding anything appearing in this newsletter are welcomed.

Ron Casey
National Ageing Statistics Unit
April 2003


As the average age of the population increases, there is increasing interest in the effect the Baby Boomer generation will have on the Australian economy.


From 1946 to 1965 (inclusive) there were 4.2 million births in Australia. This 20 year period is generally referred to as the "Baby Boom". While other periods are occasionally quoted when referring to the post-World War II baby boom, the ABS endorses 1946 to 1965 as the definitive Baby Boomer birth years. This definition reflects the views of leading demographers, based on those years having a total fertility rate* at, or above, 3.0. Since 1966, the total fertility rate has gradually declined.

The definition of the Baby Boom period varies slightly between countries. Different years may therefore apply when referring to the baby-boom period experienced in other countries, as it is acknowledged that the "boom" in Australia lasted longer than was the case in some other countries.


The 2001 Census of Population and Housing counted 5.4 million Australian residents who by virtue of their age are considered part of the Baby Boom. Some information from the 2001 Census on the baby boomer generation:
  • At the date of the 2001 Census, Baby Boomers (who were then aged between 36 and 55 years of age inclusive) represented 28.6% of the population.
  • 50.6% of Baby Boomers were female
  • In 2001, 68.5% of Baby Boomers were married, 12.7% had never been married, 12.0% were divorced, 5.4% were separated and 1.4% were widowed.
  • 33.9% of Baby Boomers were born overseas; 17.7% of Baby boomers were born in predominantly non-English speaking countries, the highest proportion coming from Italy (7.4%).
  • The majority of working Baby Boomers were employees (78.2%), while 11.9% were own account workers, 9.3% were employers and 0.6% were contributing family workers.
  • In 2001, 12.5% of the Baby Boomer generation had a gross weekly income of $159 or less (including negative income) and 33.5% had a gross weekly income of $700 or more.
  • Almost one in five male Baby Boomers worked in the Manufacturing Industry and one in five female Baby Boomers worked in Health and Community Services.

* Total fertility rate (TFR) definition:
The sum of age-specific fertility rates (live births at each age of mother per female population of that age). It represents the number of children a female would bear during her lifetime if she experienced current age-specific fertility rates at each age of her reproductive life.

  • Detailed information from the 2001 Census about older Australians will soon be available in a new publication titled Census of Population and Housing: Ageing in Australia (cat. no. 2048.0). This publication (compiled by the ABS National Ageing Statistics Unit) specifically focusses on the older age groups in terms of their geographic distribution, mobility, indigenous status, birthplace and ancestry, language, religion, families and households, type of housing, housing costs, labour force participation, hours worked, income, transport, education and use of computers and the Internet. While a major focus is on the number and characteristics of older Australians (persons aged 65 years and over) it also explores the ageing process in Australia by examining other age cohorts including mature age workers and the very old, as well as examining trends over time by comparing with data from previous Censuses. This publication is due for release at the end of June 2003.
  • The Western Australian and South Australian Governments have recently commissioned the ABS to compile "Baby Boomer" compendium publications for those States. These publications will draw on 2001 Census data and information from a range of other ABS data series. Further information will be provided in the next edition of Age Matters. In the meantime, any inquiries should be directed to David Martyn, NASU. Where can you find us?


The ABS produces data annually showing the reported causes of deaths occurring in Australia each year, based on information provided by Registrar-Generals in each State and Territory plus additional information, where required, from coroners reports. The following extract from ABS Information Paper: Suicides Australia (cat. no. 3309.0.55.001) reports on the incidence of suicides by age group. The Information Paper can be viewed in full at the ABS website.

Suicide has emerged in recent years as a major public health issue. Although death by suicide is a relatively uncommon event (in 2001, only 1.9% of all deaths registered were attributed to suicide), the human and economic costs are significant. Suicide amongst older people is of particular interest in light of social isolation, elder abuse issues and the public debate on euthanasia.


Suicide is the deliberate taking of one's life. To be classified as a suicide, a death must be recognised as due to other than natural causes. It must also be established by coronial inquiry that the death resulted from a deliberate act of the deceased with the intent of ending his or her own life. The data presented in this article contains summary statistics on suicide deaths according to the year in which the deaths were registered.


In 2001, (the most recent year for which data are available) 2,454 deaths by suicide were registered, compared with 2,363 in 2000. The age standardised rate** for the year 2001 (12.5 deaths per 100,000 persons) was 2.2% higher than the 2000 age standardised rate of 12.2 per 100,000 persons. However, the age standardised rate in 2001 was 15% lower than in 1997 (14.6 deaths per 100,000) when the highest ever number of suicides were registered (2,720).


Over the period 1991 to 2001 male suicides have outnumbered female suicides by a factor of approximately four. This ratio was fairly consistent across all age groups.

The pattern of age-specific suicide rates for older males aged 65-74 years has remained stable over this period with suicide rates for those aged 75 years and over proving more volatile. In 1991, a rate of 38.2 per 100,000 was recorded, declining to a low of 24.4 per 100,000 in 2001, although there were peaks in death rates for males in this age group, particularly in 1997, reaching 36.1 per 100,000.

Age-Specific Death Rates for Suicide
Age-Specific death rates for Suicide
Source: ABS, unpublished data, Causes of Death


More detailed information is available upon request from the ABS including methods of suicide, state and territory analyses and a range of demographic information relating to the deceased person e.g. marital status, country of birth and usual place of residence. Subject to confidentiality, much of this information may be available for single years of age. For further clarification of data concepts and customised tabulations, contact the Health and Vitals National Project Centre, Brisbane on 1800 620 963.

Other available ABS products which may be of interest include:
Deaths, Australia (cat. no. 3302.0) - issued annually
Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0) - issued annually
Suicides, Australia 1921-1998 (cat. no. 3309.0) - issued irregularly

** Age standardised rate: expresses death rates per 100,000 persons using the standard population (all persons in the 1991 Australian population).


The 2001 National Health Survey (NHS) was conducted from February to November 2001. This is the third survey of its type conducted by the ABS, with previous surveys conducted in 1989-90 and 1995. The 2001 NHS also represents the first in a new series of health surveys to be conducted every three years. The NHS was designed to obtain national benchmark information on a wide range of health issues, and to enable trends in aspects of health to be monitored over time. The survey collected indicators across three broad areas of health:

(1) the health status of the Australian population,
(2) use of health services, and
(3) health related behaviours and characteristics.

A range of demographic and other characteristics were also obtained. However information varies in detail depending on the topic. Where appropriate, the survey content and methodologies used were consistent with those of past surveys, particularly the previous survey conducted in 1995, to facilitate comparisons over time.

Summary results from the NHS are published in 2001 National Health Survey; Summary of Results, Australia (ABS Catalogue no 4364.0); a series of smaller publications focussing on particular topics are also proposed. Results from the Indigenous component of the survey were published separately on 15 November 2002. Additional unpublished tables are available via AusStats and ABS@, and special tables designed to meet individual requirements can be made available on request. Access to microdata is also now available to users: please see the following article, First CURFs released on the Remote Access Data Laboratory.

A range of additional material, intended to assist people in their use and interpretation of the survey data, is also available via this Website. This includes copies of the survey questionnaires and other survey documentation and a list of data items which are available for output from the survey. A User's Guide to the survey will also be available in early 2003.

For further information about the survey, please send email to or call on 1 800 060 050.


First CURFs released on the Remote Access Data Laboratory

The release of the first Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs) from the National Health Survey 2001 on 7 April also heralds the release of the ABS Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL). 2001 NHS clients have a choice of purchasing a CURF file on CD-ROM, or a CURF file designed for use via the RADL, which will provide them with access to more detailed data than can be provided on the CD-ROM release.

The RADL has been developed as part of the wider ABS microdata access strategy. A key feature of the RADL is that unit record data remain within the ABS environment. Users are able to submit SAS or SPSS queries to the RADL via a secure Internet link, and have appropriate statistical outputs returned to them.

The NHS 2001 CURFs will also utilise strengthened ABS microdata access arrangements. As part of a wider protections strategy, all users now have to sign a Personal Undertaking to abide by confidentiality requirements, as well as undergo training in responsible access to unit record files, before access to the CURFs can be given.

Further information on the RADL, Application and Undertakings, as well as the Responsible Access to Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs) Training Manual, can be found on the ABS website at Products and Services/How to get ABS statistics/Access to ABS CURF.

The full launch of the RADL service has been scheduled for July 2003, coinciding with the release of Census 2001 CURFs and a second-stage release of the NHS 2001 CURFs. User feedback from the first stage release of the 2001 NHS CURFs will be used to fine-tune the RADL over these next few months, and the possibility of including STATA software functionality will also be investigated.

Australia's population growing and growing older

On 27 March 2003, the ABS released the publication Population by Age and Sex, Australian States and Territories, June 1997 to June 2002 (cat . no. 3201.0). The publication contains final revised estimates of the resident population by age and sex for Australian states and territories as at 30 June 1997 to 2001 and preliminary estimates as at 30 June 2002, based on the 2001 Census of Population and Housing.

In the 12 months to June 2002, the Australian resident population increased by 249,500, reaching 19,662,800 persons in total. The growth rate over this period was 1.3%. The average annual growth rate for the previous 5 years, 1996 to 2001 was 1.2%. Over the 20 years to 2002, the population of Australia has increased by 4,478,500 (29%). The estimated resident population of all states and territories increased in the year to June 2002. Queensland recorded a growth rate of 2.2%, followed by Victoria and Western Australia (each 1.4%).

The median age of the Australian population, the age at which half the population is older and half is younger, increased by 0.2 years in the year to June 2002. The median age has increased by 6.0 years in the last 20 years, from 29.9 years in June 1982 to 35.9 years in June 2002. Australia’s population is ageing due to sustained low fertility (resulting in proportionally fewer children in the population) and increased life expectancy.

Since 1982 the number of children (aged 0-14 years) in the population has grown 6%. In contrast, the number of persons aged 15-64 years has increased by 33% and the number of persons aged 65 years and over has increased by 66%. This disparate growth pattern reflects a shift in the age structure of the total population, commensurate with gradual population ageing.

POPULATION CHANGE, Age group - 1982 to 2002p
Graph - population change, age group-1982 to 2000p
p - preliminary

In the 12 months to June 2002, the number of children aged 0-14 years decreased nationally by 5,200 children (0.1%). An increase in the number of children aged 10-14 years of 1.0% was more than offset by decreases in the number of children in lower age groups, reflecting Australia’s declining fertility (from 1.86 babies per woman in 1991 to 1.73 in 2001). Queensland was the only state to record growth in the number of children aged 0-14 years (0.9%). The number of children in Victoria was virtually unchanged and declined in all other states and territories.

The number of persons aged 15-64 years grew by 1.5% during the 12 months to June 2002. For this age group, Queensland (2.4%) and Victoria (1.7%) experienced growth rates above the national average.

In the 12 months to June 2002, the number of persons aged 65 years and over increased by 2.2%, to just under 2.5 million in total, or 12.7% of the population of Australia. The proportion of the population aged 65 years and over in was 11.8% in Queensland and 11.2% in Western Australia, while the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory recorded 8.8% and 3.9%, respectively.

Proportionally, the greatest population increase in the year to June 2002 occurred among persons aged 85 years and over (5.7%). During this period, the number of people in this age group increased from 265,200 to 280,400. This continues the rapid increase in the elderly population, which has grown by 164% over the last 20 years, compared with a total population growth of 29% over the same period.

In the 12 months to June 2002, the fastest increases in the number of persons aged 85 years and over occurred in the Australian Capital Territory (9.4%), Queensland (6.8%), Tasmania (6.3%) and New South Wales (6.2%). These states and territories experienced faster growth in the number of elderly people than did Australia as a whole.

For further information contact Genevieve Heard on 02 6252 7883 or

2002 General Social Survey

The release of results from the first iteration of a new ABS survey, the 2002 General Social Survey (GSS) is imminent. The GSS, which is intended to be repeated every four years, provides a wide range of information about the same individuals allowing the links betwen different areas of social concern to be explored. The information collected in the survey includes details of health and disability, housing, education, labour force, transport, crime, and indicators of family and community involvement, as well as economic items (income and selected assets, liabilities and financial stress). Both national and state level estimates will be available from the survey. Initial results from the GSS will be released in May/June 2003 in the publication General Social Survey, Australia (cat. no. 4159.0). Data from this survey are available for different age groups, including older people.

For further information contact Graeme Groves on 02 6252 5943 or

Managing Caring Responsibilities and Paid Employment, Queensland

This Queensland-specific publication investigates the labour force experience of those who currently have or have had caring responsibilities. The focus is on the use of leave and flexible work arrangements. The survey will also look at whether caring responsibilities have an impact on labour force participation. Key areas of interest include labour force information on employment status; whether cared for someone and relationship to the person cared for, leave taken (or leave required) to care for someone and length of paid maternity leave.

The publication Managing Paid Employment and Unpaid Caring Responsibilities, Queensland, October 2002 (cat. no. 4903.3) is due for release late April 2003.

Aged Care Facilities Now Separately Identified in Value of Non-residential Building Approvals Data Produced by the ABS

From the 1st of July 2000, the Australian Bureau of Statistics commenced coding building approvals using a revised Functional Classification of Building (FCB) (ABS Cat. 1268.0.55.001). The FCB classifies buildings to the stated predominant function or purpose of the building, according to the description as it appears on the approval documentation. The revised FCB takes into account new and emerging trends within the building industry and provides further dissection on types of buildings. The revised FCB has resulted in changes to the classifications within the non-residential sector, including the identification of aged care facilities.

Building Approval data is still being published using the previous FCB, but it is planned to publish using the new FCB commencing with the July 2003 issue of 'Building Approvals, Australia' (ABS cat. no. 8731.0). In the interim, data using the new FCB has been published in two feature articles in 8731.0. The most recent article, with data for the financial years 2000-01 and 2001-02, can be found on the ABS website Feature Article - Functional Classification of Buildings (cat. no. 8731.0).

The ABS is also identifying residential building approved where the purpose of the building is for 'retirement' purposes. This can include, but is not limited to, buildings described in approval documentation as 'retirement villages'. These data are not currently published, but are available as a consultancy service. Data is available for the current (2002-03) financial year only.

Inquiries should be directed to Andrea Woods, ABS Building and Construction on (08) 8237 7350 or

Age Data from 2001 Crime and Safety Survey

The 2001 Crime and Safety Survey (cat. no. 4509.0) will be released in June 2003. Publication tables will include breakdowns for mature age and older age groups (45-54; 55-64; and 65 years and over), covering the following topics:
  • Victims of Robbery, Selected characteristics;
  • Victims of Assault, Selected characteristics;
  • Victims of Sexual Assault, Selected characteristics;
  • Feelings of safety at home alone* during the day by selected characteristics; and
  • Feelings of safety at home alone* after dark by selected characteristics.

* Feelings of safety at home alone are new topics for the 2001 Crime and Safety Survey.

Introduction of Age Dimension to Courts Data

The publication Criminal Courts, Australia 2001-02 (cat. no. 4513.0) includes, for the first time, information about offence and penalty. This information will be available for both sex and age groupings. The publication will present the principal offence category for which defendants were adjudicated, allowing readers to examine differences in patterns of offending for males and females and for the various age groups. Information will also be presented on sentences received by defendants, providing data users with the opportunity to examine differences in court outcomes for males and females and for the various age groups. These cross-classifications of sex and age by offence and sentence type will add a new level of complexity and value to the Criminal Courts publication. The publication was released on 9 April 2003.

For further information contact Julie Cole, ABS National Crime and Justice Statistics Centre, on 03 9615 7381 or


Following is a selection of current ABS publications with ageing relevance (note, publications mentioned in previous editions of this newsletter are not included):

cat. no.

Disability New South Wales
25 September 2001
Information Paper: ABS Labour Market Statistics, Australia (Electronic Publication) - Includes section on Ageing of the Labour Force
3 March 2003


The Policy-makers guide to population ageing: key concepts and issues
Jackson, N. 2001, The policy-maker's guide to population ageing: key concepts and issues, Department of Family and Community Services, Canberra.

This 'toolkit', a compendium of concepts and specifically related to population ageing, is especially written for policy-makers, advisers and analysts. This policy research paper is available at

The Health Expectancies of Older Australians
Demography Program, Australian National University

Based on Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys of 1981, 1988, 1993 and 1998 this paper presents estimates of health expectancies of the states Disability-free and Disabled for females and males aged 60 and over by cohort from 1980 and current for the survey years. This article was posted on 26 March 2003 at the Australian Policy Online website, and new articles are available at


Ageing statistics theme page containing ageing-relevant information from the ABS and other Commonwealth Government agencies has been added to the ABS web site. The Ageing theme page highlights the type and range of data available for ageing analyses and will be updated to highlight new data releases as they become available.
NASU Contact Details

    • Fax:
          (07) 3222 6284
    • Address:
          National Ageing Statistics Unit
          Australian Bureau of Statistics
          GPO Box 9817, BRISBANE QLD 4001
    • ABS Internet site:

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