4363.0.55.001 - Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/06/2013   
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Contents >> Health conditions >> Heart and circulatory conditions

This document was added or updated on 13/12/2013.



This topic refers to those persons ever told by a doctor or nurse that they have one or more heart or circulatory conditions, and who consider they currently have one or more such conditions. The following conditions however were assumed to be current long-term conditions:

  • rheumatic heart disease
  • heart attack
  • heart failure
  • stroke
  • angina.

The scope of this topic differs according to the particular data aspect being considered.

For data collection purposes, and for data output relating to heart and circulatory conditions as a group of conditions, heart and circulatory conditions were defined broadly to include a range of heart, vascular and related conditions.

In addition to self report data for heart and circulatory conditions, information on cardiovascular disease was also collected from the NHMS. For more details on this biomedical component, see the Biomedical Measures chapter of this Users' Guide.


Information was obtained for all persons in the NHS (with certain questions only asked of specific groups, as identified below) and persons aged 2 years and over in the NNPAS.


Information about heart and circulatory conditions was collected in both the NHS and the NNPAS surveys. Information on heart and circulatory conditions was first published in the First Results publication based on the NHS only sample of approximately 20,500 people of all ages. Updated results on heart and circulatory conditions for the larger combined, core sample of approximately 32,000 people aged 2 years and over were published in the Updated Results publication. For comparison of heart and circulatory conditions with NHS only items or the 0-1 year old population, the NHS file should be used and similarly for comparison with NNPAS only items, the NNPAS file should be used. However, for the most accurate information for heart and circulatory conditions alone or comparison with other items collected in the core, the core file should be used. For more information on the structure of the AHS, see the Structure of the Australian Health Survey page of this Users' Guide.

Respondents were asked if they had ever been told by a doctor or nurse that they had a heart or circulatory condition. A prompt card showing examples of conditions was provided to respondents. The following predefined condition categories were included on the questionnaire, with provision for interviewers to record three additional conditions if required:

  • rheumatic heart disease
  • heart attack
  • heart failure
  • stroke (including after effects of stroke)
  • angina
  • high blood pressure or hypertension
  • low blood pressure or hypotension
  • hardening of the arteries, atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis
  • fluid problems, fluid retention or oedema
  • high cholesterol
  • rapid or irregular heartbeats, tachycardia or palpitations
  • heart murmur or heart valve disorder
  • haemorrhoids
  • varicose veins
  • other (up to three conditions could be recorded).

More than one response was allowed.

Please note, while high cholesterol is collected as part of the 'heart and circulatory' module and have data for additional NHS heart and circulatory items, it is classified as being an endocrine condition in the ICD-10.

The use of the prompt card in the questionnaires effectively established this as the most detailed level of information on heart and circulatory conditions available from the survey. Very limited further detail may be available for those conditions recorded in the 'other specify' category.

Respondents were then asked if they currently had any heart or circulatory conditions, including conditions currently controlled by medications, and whether any/which of these conditions had lasted or were expected to last for six months or more. The list of predefined conditions was again used for these questions, and any 'other' responses identified in the initial question.

All NHS respondents aged 45 years or over, and respondents aged 18 to 44 years who specified that they had a current heart or circulatory condition, were asked whether their cholesterol level had been checked in the last 5 years, and if so, whether their cholesterol level had been checked in the last 12 months.

NHS respondents aged 18 years or over were asked whether their blood pressure had been checked in the last two years, and if so, whether it had been checked in the last 12 months, and who usually performs the check (GP, specialist, other health professional, somebody else (e.g. family member), and then whether they had tested their own blood pressure in the last 12 months.

NHS respondents, aged 18 years or over with a current heart or circulatory condition, were also asked whether they took aspirin on a daily basis, and whether this had been on the advice of a doctor.

NHS respondents who reported having a current and long-term heart or circulatory condition were sequenced to the Actions module where they were asked questions about the number of times they had seen a GP, specialist, etc.

NHS respondents were asked in a later module about all medications and health supplements that they were taking, but not in relation to any specific condition. This differs from the 2007-08 survey where questions about medication were asked within the heart and circulatory conditions module.

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 this is a household based survey, people with heart or circulatory conditions who are resident in hospitals, nursing or convalescent homes, or similar accommodation were outside the scope of this survey. As a result, the survey will under-represent those with more severe conditions.
  • In this survey, persons who reported they had been told they had rheumatic heart disease, a heart attack, heart failure, angina or stroke are counted as having a current and long-term condition. Even though these conditions are usually short-term events, they often result in some form of residual damage or effects, and have been treated in this survey as current long-term conditions on that basis.
  • Those cases of heart or circulatory conditions reported through the 'Long-term conditions' module, rather than the 'heart and circulatory conditions' module, have not necessarily been diagnosed by a doctor or nurse. Data for these respondents only appear on the NHS file, and are identified by their conditions status of 4: Not known if ever told or not ever told, but condition current and long-term.
  • The conditions recorded are as reported by respondents. In some cases it could be expected that some conditions reported may be symptoms of other heart or circulatory conditions, or other conditions. For example, oedema may be a symptom of a heart valve disorder. Respondents were not asked to associate conditions in this way, such that both symptoms and underlying conditions may have been reported in some cases, and only symptoms or only conditions in other cases. As a result, in looking at the prevalence of certain conditions, data users should consider how related or associated conditions should be treated.
  • The prevalence of most long-term illness increases with age. In drawing comparisons of prevalence between the surveys, account should be taken of the shift in the age profile of the population during the period between surveys. As a result of this Table 1 in the Australian Health Survey: First Results, 2011-12, (cat. no. 4364.0.55.001) has been age standardised so that direct comparisons can be made.

Comparability with 2007-08

Data for most common items are considered directly comparable between the 2011-12 and 2007-08 surveys.

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