The definitions used in this survey are not necessarily identical to those used for similar items in other collections. Additional information about the items is contained in the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2012-13 (cat. no. 4727.0.55.002).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander household
A household in an occupied private dwelling with at least one resident who has been identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. Other residents of the household may have been identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, non-Indigenous, or have Indigenous status unknown.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
Refers to people who identified themselves, or were identified by another household member, as being of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin.
Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia
Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA) was developed by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) and the National Key Centre for Social Applications of GIS (GISCA). ARIA measures the remoteness of a point based on the physical road distance to the nearest Urban Centre in each of five size classes. For more information on how ARIA is defined see Information Paper: ABS Views on Remoteness, 2001 (cat. no. 1244.0) and Information Paper: Outcomes of ABS Views on Remoteness Consultation, Australia, Jun 2001 (cat. no. 1244.0.00.001). Also refer to Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 5 - Remoteness Structure, July 2011 (cat. no. 1270.0.55.005) available from the ABS web site.
A respondent aged 18 years or over.
Age standardisation is a way of allowing comparisons between two or more populations with different age structures, in order to remove age as a factor when examining relationships between variables. For example, the age structure of the population of Australia is changing over time. As the prevalence of a particular health condition (for example, arthritis) may be related to age, any increase in the proportion of people with that health condition over time may be due to real increases in prevalence or to changes in the age structure of the population over time or to both. Age standardising removes the effect of age in assessing change over time or between different populations.
Note that proportions quoted in commentary in this publication are not age-standardised. However, datacubes including comparisons between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people contain age standardised rates and non-age standardised rates. Data are age standardised to the 2001 Australian population.
Alcohol consumption risk level
Alcohol consumption risk levels in this publication have been assessed using the 2001 and 2009 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines for the consumption of alcohol.
Risk in the longer term (2001 guidelines) and lifetime risk (2009 guidelines) was assessed using average daily consumption of alcohol for persons aged 15 years and over, derived from the type, brand, number and serving sizes of beverages consumed on the three most recent days of the week prior to interview, in conjunction with the total number of days alcohol was consumed in the week prior to interview.
Risk in the short term (2001 guidelines) and single occasion risk (2009 guidelines) was assessed using questions on the number of times in the last 12 months a person's consumption exceeded specified levels.
2001 NHMRC GUIDELINES(a)
Level of risk
|Minimising risk in the longer term|
up to 4 standard drinks
5–6 standard drinks
7 or more standard drinks
up to 2 standard drinks
3–4 standard drinks
5 or more standard drinks
|Minimising risk in the short term|
up to 6 standard drinks
7–10 standard drinks(b)
11 or more standard drinks(b)
up to 4 standard drinks
5–6 standard drinks(b)
7 or more standard drinks(b)
|(a) One standard drink contains 12.5 mLs of alcohol.|
|(b) On at least one occasion in the last 12 months.|
2009 NHMRC GUIDELINES(a)(b)
Level of risk
Does not exceed guideline
|Guideline 1 - Lifetime risk|
up to and including 2 standard drinks
more than 2 standard drinks
|Guideline 2 - Single occasion risk|
up to and including 4 standard drinks
more than 4 standard drinks(c)
|(a) One standard drink contains 12.5 mLs of alcohol.|
|(b) Guidelines relate to both males and females.|
|(c) On at least one occasion in the last 12 months.|
Alcohol consumption status information was also collected for persons who did not consume any alcohol in the 7 days prior to interview, categorised as:
- Last consumed more than one week to less than 12 months ago;
- Last consumed 12 months or more ago; and
- Never consumed.
For more detailed information on the 2001 NHMRC guidelines, see the Australian Alcohol Guidelines: Health Risks and Benefits and for the 2009 guidelines, see the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol and Frequently Asked Questions.
For a detailed explanation of the method used to measure alcohol consumption in ABS health surveys, see Alcohol Consumption in Australia: A Snapshot, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4832.0.55.001).
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Arthritis is characterised by an inflammation of the joints often resulting in pain, stiffness, disability and deformity.
ASGS Remoteness Structure
The Remoteness Structure for the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) 2011, has five categories based on an aggregation of geographical areas which share common characteristics of remoteness, determined in the context of Australia as a whole. The criteria for these categories are based on the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA). For more details, see Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia definition above.
A chronic disease marked by episodes of wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath associated with widespread narrowing of the airways within the lungs and obstruction of airflow. Asthma was considered to be current if respondents reported at the time of interview that they were still getting asthma.
Back pain/problems, disc disorder
Includes back pain or other back problems, such as sprains, strains or joint pain, as well as disc disorders, such as slipped discs or disc degeneration. Excludes arthritis and osteoporosis (as they are reported in their own separate classification), and also excludes sciatica, curvature of the spine and soft tissue disorders.
See High blood pressure, Diastolic blood pressure and Systolic blood pressure.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify people as underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese. It is calculated from height and weight information, using the formula weight (kg) divided by the square of height (m). To produce a measure of the prevalence of underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese adults, BMI values are grouped according to the table below which allows categories to be reported against both the World Health Organization (WHO) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines.
BODY MASS INDEX, Adults
Less than 18.50
20.00 — 24.99
25.00 — 29.99
30.00 or more
Separate BMI classifications were produced for children. BMI scores were created in the same manner described above but also took into account the age and sex of the child. There are different cut-offs for BMI categories (underweight/normal combined, overweight or obese) for male and female children. These categories differ to the categories used in the adult BMI classification and follow the scale provided in Cole TJ, Bellizzi MC, Flegal KM and Dietz WH, Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: international survey, BMJ 2000; 320. For a detailed list of the cut-offs used to calculate BMI for children see the Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001).
A person aged 0-17 years.
See long-term medical condition.
Current daily smoker
A current daily smoker is a respondent who reported at the time of interview that they regularly smoked one or more cigarettes, cigars or pipes per day. See also Smoker status.
Days away from work or study
Refers to days on which the respondent was away from work, school or place of study (as appropriate) for more than half a day. Absences included days away due to a respondent's own illness or injury, or to care for another person with illness or injury. Data in this publication refer only to days away due to own illness or injury.
Includes partial or total loss of hearing.
A chronic condition in which blood glucose levels become too high due to the body producing little or no insulin, or not using insulin properly.
Diastolic blood pressure
Measures the pressure in the arteries as the heart relaxes before the next beat. It is the lower number of the blood pressure reading.
As specified by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for fruit and vegetable consumption. See Usual daily intake of fruit and Usual daily intake of vegetables.
A limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months and restricts everyday activities.
Persons aged 15 years and over who had a job or business, or who undertook work without pay in a family business for a minimum of one hour per week. Includes persons who were absent from a job or business. See also Unemployed and Not in the labour force.
Based on frequency, intensity (that is, walking, moderate exercise or vigorous exercise) and duration of exercise (for fitness, recreation or sport, including walking for transport) in the one week prior to interview. From these, an exercise score was derived using factors to represent the intensity of the exercise. See also National Physical Activity Guidelines.
Any of the following events or circumstances which the person considers have been a problem for themselves or someone close to them in the last 12 months:
- Serious illness;
- Serious accident;
- Mental illness;
- Serious disability;
- Getting married/marriage;
- New family member;
- Overcrowding at home;
- Getting back together with a spouse;
- Divorce or separation;
- Death of a family member or close friend;
- Not able to get a job;
- Involuntary loss of a job;
- Started a new job/changed job;
- Pressure to fulfill cultural responsibilities;
- Alcohol or drug related problems;
- Gambling problems;
- Witness to violence;
- Abuse or violent crime;
- Spent time in jail;
- Trouble with the police;
- Treated badly because they are an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person;
- Unwelcome at child's school;
- Feeling unsafe; or
Fat content of milk
An indication of intake of fat. Categorised as:
- Whole/full cream (3% fat or more);
- Reduced fat (around 1 or 2%);
- Skim (less than 1%);
- Does not drink milk; and
- Does not know fat content.
Refers to specific health-related action(s) respondents reported they had taken in the two weeks prior to interview (except for admitted to hospital which had a 12 month time frame), including:
- Admitted to hospital;
- Visits to outpatient clinic or casualty/emergency or day clinic;
- Consultation with general practitioner (GP) and/or specialist;
- Consultation with dental professional;
- Consultations with other health professionals (OHP): see separate reference;
- Days away from work or study; see separate reference; and
- Other days of reduced activity (days other than days away from work or school/study) due to own illness or injury.
Health risk factors
Specific lifestyle and related factors impacting on health, including:
- Tobacco smoking;
- Alcohol consumption;
- Body mass;
- Dietary behaviour; and
- Blood pressure.
Heart disease (Heart, stroke and vascular conditions)
A subset of reported long-term conditions comprising the following:
- Angina and other ischaemic heart disease;
- Cerebrovascular disease;
- Heart failure;
- Oedema; and
- Diseases of arteries, arterioles and capillaries.
High blood pressure
A measured blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg (millimetres of mercury) or higher. Data on high blood pressure in this publication refer to measured blood pressure only, and do not take into account whether people who might otherwise have high blood pressure are managing their condition through the use of blood pressure medications.
High sugar levels
High sugar levels in blood or urine.
A household is defined as one or more persons, at least one of whom is at least 15 years of age, usually resident in the same private dwelling. In this survey, only households with at least one adult (aged 18 years and over) were included.
Also known as hypertension or high blood pressure, hypertensive disease is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated, requiring the heart to work harder than normal to circulate blood through the blood vessels. Hypertension is a major risk factor for strokes and myocardial infarction (heart attacks) as well as several other medical conditions.
Illicit substance use
The use of substances for non-medical purposes. Includes: analgesics, tranquillisers; amphetamines; marijuana; heroin; cocaine; hallucinogens (both synthetic and naturally occurring); ecstasy and other designer drugs; methadone; petrol and other inhalants; and kava. The 2012–13 AATSIHS collected information on a person's substance use in the 12 months prior to interview and their substance use to date.
Indigenous Regions (IREGs) are the highest level of the Indigenous Structure of the 2011 Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS). IREGs are large geographical units loosely based on the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) boundaries. The ASGS Indigenous Structure has been designed for the purpose of disseminating Census data by spatial areas relevant to the distribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. IREG boundaries do not cross state or territory borders and are defined to cover the whole of geographic Australia. For more information, see Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 2 - Indigenous Structure, July 2011 (cat. no. 1270.0.55.002).
Ischaemic heart disease
A disease of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle.
A subset of symptoms including: problems or complaints about the kidneys, renal pain and renal colic (kidney stones).
Labour force status
Identifies whether a person is employed, unemployed or not in the labour force.
Long sightedness (or hyperopia/hypermetropia) is a common condition of the eye where the light that comes into the eye focuses behind the retina, causing the image of a close object to be out of focus, but that of a distant object to be in focus. Glasses, contact lenses and laser techniques are used to correct long sightedness.
Long-term medical condition (or Long-term health condition)
A medical condition (illness, injury or disability) which has lasted at least six months, or which the respondent expects to last for six months or more. Some reported conditions were assumed to be long-term, including asthma, arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, sight problems, rheumatic heart disease, heart attack, angina, heart failure and stroke. Rheumatic heart disease, heart attack, angina, heart failure and stroke were also assumed to be current.
Exercise for fitness, recreation, or sport (including walking for transport) which caused a moderate increase in heart rate or breathing.
National Physical Activity Guidelines
The current National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australian adults (18 years and over) recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days. For this release, this has been interpreted from the following two measures considered to correlate with good health outcomes:
- whether exercised for 150 minutes per week
- whether exercised for 150 minutes per week over 5 or more sessions
A neoplasm is a new growth of abnormal tissue (a tumour). Tumours can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancer). Cancer refers to several diseases and can affect most types of cells in various parts of the body.
Refers to the Major Cities, Inner Regional and Outer Regional areas as categorised by the ASGS Remoteness Areas. See ASGS Remoteness Structure for more information.
Not in the labour force
Persons who are not employed or unemployed as defined, including persons who:
- Are retired;
- No longer work;
- Do not intend to work in the future;
- Are permanently unable to work; or
- Have never worked and never intend to work.
A condition that thins and weakens bone mineral density, generally caused by loss of calcium, which leads to increased risk of fracture. Data was collected from persons aged 15 years and over plus younger respondents who reported having gout, rheumatism or arthritis.
Other health professionals
Includes consultation, for own health reasons, in the two weeks prior to interview, with one or more of the following:
- Aboriginal health worker;
- Accredited counsellor;
- Alcohol and drug worker;
- Occupational therapist;
- Social worker/welfare officer;
- Speech therapist/pathologist;
- Traditional healer.
The modified (five-question) version of the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K5) is used to measure non-specific psychological distress of an individual. A high score indicates that the person may be experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression on a regular basis, whereas a low score indicates that the person is experiencing these feelings less frequently or not at all. For more information, see the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report Measuring the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Data were collected from respondents aged 18 years and over.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander to non-Indigenous rate ratios are calculated by dividing the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a particular characteristic by the proportion of non-Indigenous people with the same characteristic. If the characteristic of interest is highly correlated with age (e.g. prevalence of long term conditions), age standardised proportions are used to calculate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander to non-Indigenous rate ratios. A rate ratio of 1.0 indicates that the prevalence of the characteristic is the same in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous populations. Rate ratios greater than 1.0 indicate higher prevalence in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and rate ratios less than 1.0 indicate higher prevalence in the non-Indigenous population. Rate ratios produced for this publication were based on age standardised proportions to two decimal places.
Refers to the Remote and Very Remote areas as categorised by the ASGS Remoteness Areas. See ASGS Remoteness Structure for more information.
Self-assessed health status
A person's general assessment of their own health against a five point scale from excellent through to poor. Data were collected from respondents aged 15 years and over.
Short sightedness (or myopia) is a common condition of the eye where the light that comes into the eye does not directly focus on the retina but in front of it, causing the image of a distant object to be out of focus, but that of a close object to be in focus. Glasses, contact lenses and laser techniques are used to correct short sightedness.
The extent to which a respondent was smoking at the time of interview, and refers to regular smoking of tobacco, including manufactured (packet) cigarettes, roll-your-own cigarettes, cigars and pipes, but excludes chewing tobacco and smoking of non-tobacco products. Categorised as:
- Current daily smoker - a respondent who reported at the time of interview that they regularly smoked one or more cigarettes, cigars or pipes per day;
- Current smoker - Other - a respondent who reported at the time of interview that they smoked cigarettes, cigars or pipes, less frequently than daily;
- Ex-smoker - a respondent who reported that they did not currently smoke, but had regularly smoked daily, or had smoked at least 100 cigarettes, or smoked pipes, cigars, etc at least 20 times in their lifetime; and
- Never smoked - a respondent who reported they had never regularly smoked daily, and had smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and had smoked pipes, cigars, etc less than 20 times.
Data were collected from respondents aged 15 years and over.
Refers to a standard drink of alcohol, defined as containing 12.5 mLs of alcohol.
Systolic blood pressure
Measures the pressure in the arteries as the heart pumps blood during each beat. It is the higher number of the blood pressure reading.
Type of condition
All reported long-term medical conditions were coded to a classification developed by the ABS for use in the 2001 National Health Survey, which is based on the tenth revision of the International Classification of Diseases and Health Related Problems (ICD-10).
Type of milk
Main type of milk usually consumed, including cow's milk, soy milk, evaporated and condensed milk, and other unspecified types of milk.
Persons aged 15 years and over who were not employed and actively looking for work in the four weeks prior to the survey, and were available to start work in the week prior to the survey.
Usual daily intake of fruit
Refers to the number of serves of fruit (excluding drinks and beverages) usually consumed each day, as reported by the respondent. A serve is approximately 150 grams of fresh fruit or 50 grams of dried fruit. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) 2003 Guidelines recommended a minimum of two serves of fruit per day for adults and three serves of fruit for children aged 12–17 years and one serve for children aged 5–11 years.
The NHMRC has since released new guidelines in 2013. As the 2012–13 AATSIHS only collected information on whole serves of fruit, the new guidelines have been applied as follows:
Inadequate daily intake of fruit
|Children aged 2-8 years|
less than one serve
|Children aged 9-17 years|
less than two serves
|Adults aged 18 years and over|
less than two serves
Usual daily intake of vegetables
Refers to the number of serves of vegetables (excluding drinks and beverages) usually consumed each day, as reported by the respondent. A serve is approximately half a cup of cooked vegetables or one cup of salad vegetables — equivalent to approximately 75 grams. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) 2003 Guidelines recommended a minimum of five serves of vegetables per day for adults and four serves of vegetables for children aged 12–17 years, three serves for 8–11 years and two serves for children aged 5–7 years.
The NHMRC has since released new guidelines in 2013. As the 2012–13 AATSIHS only collected information on whole serves of vegetables, the new guidelines have been applied as follows:
Inadequate daily intake of vegetables
|Children aged 2-3 years|
less than two serves
|Children aged 4-8 years|
less than four serves
|Children aged 9-17 years|
less than five serves
|Adult males aged 18-49 years|
less than six serves
|Adult males aged 50 years and over|
less than five serves
|Adults females aged 18 years and over|
less than five serves
Exercise for fitness, recreation or sport which caused a large increase in heart rate or breathing.
Waist circumference is associated with an increased risk of metabolic complications associated with obesity. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) approved the following guidelines for Caucasian men and women:
WAIST MEASUREMENT GUIDELINES, Adults
|Not at risk||Waist circumference less than 94 cm|
Waist circumference less than 80 cm
|Increased risk||Waist circumference more than or equal to 94 cm|
Waist circumference more than or equal to 80 cm
|Greatly increased risk||Waist circumference more than or equal to 102 cm|
Waist circumference more than or equal to 88 cm