4363.0.55.001 - Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/12/2013   
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Contents >> Biomedical Measures >> Iron biomarkers >> Haemoglobin (Hb)



Anaemia is caused by a decrease in either the number of red blood cells in the body or the quantity of haemoglobin within red blood cells. When a person is anaemic, their heart has to work harder to ensure that muscles and organs get the oxygen they need. Haemoglobin (Hb) is a protein found in red blood cells. It contains a large amount of iron and helps transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. The National Health Measures Survey (NHMS) measured the concentration of Hb in the blood, which can help diagnose anaemia.

The Hb test measures the amount of Hb circulating in the blood at the time of the test.


Hb results were obtained for selected persons aged 12 years and over, who agreed to participate in the NHMS and provided a blood sample. Fasting was not required for this test.


A blood sample was collected from participants and Hb levels were measured at the Douglass Hanly Moir (DHM) laboratory.

Abnormal levels of haemoglobin indicating a risk of anaemia are defined differently for males and females, young people, and pregnant women. In the NHMS, cut off reference values for normal and abnormal (at risk of anaemia) results were sourced from the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.1 These guidelines are based on epidemiological data and publications of major clinical trials.

In the NHMS, the following definitions were used for whole blood Hb (anaemia):

Cut off points for Anaemia (Hb) for females in the NHMS

Hb levels for non-pregnant females
Hb levels for pregnant females

At risk of anaemia<120<110

Cut off points for Anaemia (Hb) for males in the NHMS

Hb levels for males

Normal (12-14 years)120
At risk of anaemia (12-14 years)<120
Normal (15 years and over)130
At risk of anaemia (15 years and over)<130

Further test information about the analysis method and machine used to measure Hb levels is available in Excel spreadsheet format in the Downloads page of this product.

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 when interpreting data for this topic include the following:
  • Hb results do not confirm a specific diagnosis without consultation with a health professional.
  • There are a number of different test methods for measuring Hb, which may produce different results. The data from this topic should therefore be used with caution when comparing Hb results from other studies using a different test method or equation.

Comparability with other surveys

The NHMS is the first ABS survey to collect biomedical data on anaemia (Hb) levels.

Anaemia (Hb) data has been collected in other non-ABS surveys. However, caution must be taken when interpreting results due to the differences in scope, assay and the instrument used, and any thresholds applied in the final analysis.


1 World Health Organization (WHO) 2011, Haemoglobin concentrations for the diagnosis of anaemia and assessment of severity, Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition Information System, <http://www.who.int/vmnis/indicators/haemoglobin/en/>, Last accessed 26/06/2013.

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