4363.0.55.001 - Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/07/2013   
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Sedentary behaviour was defined as sitting or lying down for various activities in the last week. This included time spent sitting at work, and time spent sitting for transport or time spent sitting or lying down while using computers, watching television, and for other leisure activities.

The definition of leisure time includes all time outside work hours.


Information was collected for selected persons aged 18 years and over in the NNPAS.


This topic was collected as part of the NNPAS adult physical activity module. However, data collected in this section have not contributed to physical activity level calculations.

Sedentary behaviour questions were collected for the last week. This is in keeping with the timeframe of the Physical activity data, so it is possible to do some comparisons between the two domains if desired.

Respondents who identified they had worked in the last week were asked to identify how much time they had spent at work last week (including breaks and time spent off-site during their work day). This is different to the question in the employment module, which collects usual hours worked each week. They were then asked how much time they had spent sitting at work in the last week (including meal breaks, at their desk or in meetings). In addition to continuous items from these two items, a proportion of work time spent sitting has also been produced, where both times were known.

All respondents were then asked about time they had spent sitting or lying down, in the last week, for each of the following leisure time activities:

  • transport (including waiting for transport)
  • watching television or videos
  • playing electronic games
  • using a computer or the internet
  • using a phone (including text messages and talking)
  • other social or leisure activities (such as at a barbecue, for meals, at a cinema, etc.).

In order to calculate a total sedentary time, where the respondent was doing more than one activity at a time they were asked to report what their main activity was. For example, if they were using their laptop while sitting on a train, this was considered to be travel, not computer and not both.

Data Items

The data items and related output categories for this topic are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the Downloads page of this product.


Points to be considered in interpreting data for this topic include the following:
  • As the nature of sedentary behaviour often involves doing multiple activities at the same time, e.g. using smart phones to access social networking sites while watching television, respondents may have duplicated the time they were sitting by reporting both activities instead of the main activity. There may have been instances where sedentary behaviour at work was also reported at the leisure activity questions. Interviewers were trained to avoid this where possible. However, the possibility of duplicate reporting should be considered when interpreting the data.
  • As the main activity concept was collected where multiple activities were occurring to avoid duplication of time, the reporting level of activities may not represent the full population or total time spent on an activity.
  • Over recent years there has been an increasing focus by governments and media on health and lifestyle issues around obesity and low levels of activity. While such attention is likely to influence the levels of activity in the community, it may also have an impact on reporting behaviour; for example, creating a tendency to report what is perceived to be a desirable level sedentary behaviour rather than the actual level.

Comparability with other surveys

Due to different time-frame definitions and concepts collected, sedentary data collected in the 2011-12 NNPAS is not considered comparable to the 2011-12 NHS or previous cycles. Comparisons with other surveys should also be made with caution, and with consideration of the collection methodology and definitions or timeframes used.

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