Nutrition Survey, (National)

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    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)


    The National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 1995 collected information on food and beverage intake, physical measurements, food related habits and attitudes and food consumption patterns over the last 12 months. Type of Food and beverages consumed and Nutrient intake were derived from each respondent's reported food intake for the day prior to interview. The NNS was conducted on a sub-sample of the NHS participants.


    The objectives of the 1995 National Nutrition Survey (NNS) are to:

    • Monitor intakes against the Dietary Guidelines for Australians, compare nutrient intakes with the Recommended Dietary Intakes (RDIs) and assist in future revisions of the RDIs.
    • Assess changes in dietary habits and nutritional status since 1983 to 1985 and provide a basis for comparisons to future regular surveys.
    • Assist the evaluation of Australia's Food and Nutrition Policy, monitor health goals and targets for nutrition and diet-related disease, and assist in future revision of National Health Goals and Targets.
    • Develop policy and regulations related to food safety and composition; assist in the provision of food related to food production, manufacture and sales.
    • Provide information on the interrelationship of health, social, economic and nutrition variables in selected population subgroups for policy development, including health promotion.
    • Provide a basis for nutrition promotion strategies.


    Scope :

    The scope of the NNS differed in two main areas from that of its National Health Survey (NHS) parent:

    • special dwellings were excluded, and
    • children aged less than 2 years were excluded.

    The NNS covered urban and rural areas across all States and Territories of Australia, and included residents of private dwellings aged 2 years or older. A private dwelling was defined as a house, flat, home unit, caravan, garage, tent and any other structure being used as a private place of residence at the time of the survey. All households within sampled private dwellings were included in the survey. Generally speaking, a household comprised a group of persons living together in a dwelling who considered themselves to be separate from other people in the dwelling and who made regular provision to take meals together.

    The following persons living in Australia, but not usually considered part of the Australian resident population, were excluded from the scope of the survey:

    • diplomatic personnel of overseas governments and non-Australian members of their households;
    • non-Australian service personnel stationed in Australia and their dependants; and
    • overseas visitors whose usual place of residence is outside Australia.

    Non-Australians (other than those above) working in Australia, or in Australia as students or settlers, and their dependants, were included in the survey scope.

    Coverage :

    Coverage rules were designed to ensure that, as far as possible, persons remaining within the scope of the survey (after the above exclusions were applied) had only one chance of being interviewed. Coverage rules were the same for the NNS and the NHS.

    Usual residents of selected private dwellings were included in the survey if they were staying at, or had stayed at, the selected dwelling for any part of the month of interview or any part of the previous month. Usual residents who were absent from the dwelling for the entire two month period were excluded on coverage grounds.

    Visitors to selected private dwellings who did not usually live in a private dwelling were included in the survey. Visitors who usually lived in a private dwelling were included in the survey only if they had not been at their own usual dwelling for any part of the previous month and would not be at their own usual dwelling for any part of the month of interview.


    Conceptual framework

    The goal of the 1995 National Nutrition Survey (NNS) was to provide food and nutrient data to assist with the implementation of Australia's food and Nutrition policy, specifically

    • To provide data on nutrient intake for comparison with the Recommended Dietary Intakes for Australians (RDIs).
    • To provide data on food intake for comparison with the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

    Examining the Recommended Dietary Intakes for Australians identified a number of important macronutrients and micronutrients to be measured as well as Energy and Moisture intakes.

    Macronutrients were:

    • Protein
    • Total fat - Saturated, Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated
    • Cholesterol
    • Total Carbohydrate - Sugars, Starch
    • Dietary Fibre
    • Alcohol

    Micronutrients were:

    • Vitamins
    • Vitamin A - retinol equivalent, preformed, Provitamin A
    • Vitamin B - Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin equivalent, Folate
    • Vitamin C
    • Minerals
    • Calcium
    • Phosphorus
    • Magnesium
    • Iron
    • Zinc
    • Potassium

    The NNS used a three tiered approach to provide information on the Macronutrient and Micronutrient intake of the Australian population. For each individual person:

    1. Collect daily food and beverage consumption data in an individual food intake questionnaire (IFIQ) which used a 24-hour recall method to describe all the foods and beverages consumed during the day prior to interview.

    2. Apply nutrient information to each food and beverage consumed, identifying the exact macronutrient and micronutrient composition.

    3. Derive the total intake of each macronutrient and micronutrient based on the total amount of food and beverages reported.

    It was important to take into account, however, the limitations of collecting food and beverage consumption data based on a single day's intake; as day-to-day eating patterns can vary enormously for individuals. In order to obtain a more reliable estimate of the distribution of usual nutrient intake it was necessary to obtain information of the food and beverage intake on a second day for the same individuals. Therefore a replicate sample of 10% of the NNS respondents were asked to complete a second IFIQ within 10 days of the first interview but on a different day of the week. These data were used to calculate adjustment factors for all nutrients to remove within-person variation.

    As it is acknowledged that a problem commonly associated with dietary surveys is under-reporting of consumption, information was collected to assist in the assessment of the level of under-reporting in the NNS. The method chosen was to compare the self-reported level of energy intake in adults with an estimate of the energy required to maintain basal metabolism on the assumption that weight is stable. This was facilitated by the collection of a range of physical measurements: height, weight, waist, and hip from respondents of all ages, and blood pressure from those aged 16 and over. In addition to calculating energy to basal metabolic rate, these measurements were used to derive a number of important indicators such as body mass index, waist to hip ratio, and derived hypertension which should be considered in relation to diet.

    The detailed nature of the IFIQ and the 24 hour dietary recall method ensured that the foods and beverages were described in sufficient detail to enable their nutrient composition to be determined. In order to compare the reported food and beverage intakes against the broad headings of the Dietary Guidelines for Australians, the Australian and New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) developed a detailed classification of foods and beverages, based on their main ingredient, for use in the NNS.

    Main outputs

    4 joint publications between the ABS and the Commonwealth Department of Health and Family Services have been produced from the 1995 National Nutrition Survey (NNS). Advice on the content of these has been provided by the Expert Technical Working Group on Output and Analysis:

    • Selected Highlights, Australia, 1995 (ABS Cat. No. 4802.0), presents selected summary results from the survey including food and beverage consumption, nutrient intake, eating habits, dietary attitudes and anthropometric (physical measurements) indicators for adults and children. The Selected Highlights publication was released in December 1997.
    • User's Guide, (ABS Cat. No. 4801.0), provides detailed information on the 1995 NNS. It contains information about the survey objectives, methods and procedures used in the collection of data, and derivation of estimates. Also included is a copy of the survey questionnaires and other relevant information the products and services provided by the ABS from the NNS. The User's Guide was released in February 1998.
    • Nutrient Intakes and Physical Measurements, Australia, 1995, (ABS Cat. No. 4805.0), provides detailed information on the nutrient intake derived from food data collected in the 24 hour recall food intake questionnaire and physical measurements such as height, weight and blood pressure. Further information on the mean and median daily intakes of energy and other macronutrients (such as protein and carbohydrate), selected micronutrients (such as thiamin and calcium) and the main food sources of these nutrients by age group and sex has also been included. The daily nutrient intake of adults has also been examined for a range of characteristics including State and Territory of residence, geographic region, region of birth, season of food intake and an area index of relative socioeconomic disadvantage (SEIFA index). The Nutrient Intakes and Physical Measurements publication was released in December 1998.
    • Foods Eaten, Australia, 1995, (ABS Cat. No. 4804.0), presents information on the food and beverage consumption reported in the 24 hour dietary recall questionnaire of the 1995 National Nutrition Survey (NNS). Three measures are reported: mean daily intake for all persons, median food intake for those who consumed and the proportion who consumed from each of food group. This has been presented by age group and sex. Consumption of food and beverages by adults has also been examined for a range of characteristics, including State and Territory of residence, geographic region, region of birth, season of food intake and an area index of relative socioeconomic disadvantage (SEIFA index). The Foods Eaten publication was released in January 1999.

    The 1995 National Nutrition Survey (NNS) Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) was released in July 1998 and contains a set of three data files.

    • NNS data file contains the 13,858 confidentialised respondent records from the NNS. Each record contains the food and nutrition data together with demographic, socioeconomic and geographic data items. It also contains some information collected in the 1995 National Health Survey (NHS) which was considered integral to the NNS.
    • NHS data file contains the full set of NHS information for the 13,8548 NNS respondents. This can be merged with the NNS data file through a common identifier.
    • NNS Day 2 data file contains the 1,489 respondent records for those people who provided food intake data for a second 24-hour dietary recall period (Day 2). The ABS has used this file to calculate factors which can be applied to nutrient intake data on the NNS data file, with the aim of reducing within-person variation. The NNS Day 2 data file is intended for people wishing to undertake similar analyses, and can be merged with the NNS data file through a common identifier.


    ABS standard classifications were used for items describing standard demographic, socioeconomic, education, labour force, housing, etc characteristics.

    The main survey specific classifications which were developed in consultation with the then Department of Health and Family Services and the Australia New Zealand Food Authority were:

    the hierarchical classification of food groups, and

    the classification of nutrients.

    Other survey specific classifications were adopted or developed for specific items. Information about all the classifications used in the survey is contained in the 1995 National Nutrition Survey: Users' Guide.

    Other concepts (summary)

    Not applicable

    New South Wales
    South Australia
    Western Australia
    Northern Territory
    Section of State
    Other (specify below)

    Comments and/or Other Regions

    Sample drawn from urban and rural/remote areas in all States and Territories. Geographic data is also available using the Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Areas (RRMA) classification produced by the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industries and Energy and the then Department of Human Services and Health in November 1994.

    Once Only

    Frequency comments


    MOU signed by DHFS and ABS 29 July 1994

    Decision on dietary methodologies under guidance of Expert Group Late 1994

    Enumeration started February 1995

    Enumeration completed March/April 1996

    Physical measurements and food related data entry completed at ABS Late 1996

    Food and Nutrient data entry completed and transferred to ABS February 1997

    Declaration of clean file September 1997

    Release of initial publication Early December 1997


    Data availability comments

    Data products have been released. Additional statistics are available on a consultancy basis

    14/09/2004 09:48 AM