4364.0.55.004 - Australian Health Survey: Physical Activity, 2011-12  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/07/2013  First Issue
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1 This publication presents a selection of results from the 2011-12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NNPAS), with the focus on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and pedometer steps.

2 The 2011-12 NNPAS was conducted throughout Australia from May 2011 to June 2012. NNPAS was collected as one of a suite of surveys conducted from 2011-2013, called the Australian Health Survey (AHS). The National Health Survey (NHS), also a part of the AHS, collected similar data on adult physical activity, of which level of exercise was reported in the Australian Health Survey: First Results, 2011-12 (cat. no. 4364.0.55.001) and was also used in cross-tabulations for the Australian Health Survey: Health Service Usage and Health Related Actions, 2011-12 (cat. no. 4364.0.55.002).

3 The 2011-12 NNPAS physical activity publication contains information about physical activity (including pedometer steps) and sedentary behaviour (in particular screen-based activity) and comparisons with:

  • health-related aspects of people's lifestyles, such as smoking, Body Mass Index, blood pressure and fruit and vegetable intake
  • demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

4 The statistics presented in this publication are only a selection of the information collected in the NNPAS. Further publications from the Australian Health Survey are outlined in the Release Schedule, while the list of data items currently available from the survey are available in the Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001).


5 The National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NNPAS) contains a sample of approximately 9,500 private dwellings across Australia.

6 Urban and rural areas in all states and territories were included, while Very Remote areas of Australia and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (and the remainder of the Collection Districts in which these communities were located) were excluded. These exclusions are unlikely to affect national estimates, and will only have a minor effect on aggregate estimates produced for individual states and territories, excepting the Northern Territory where the population living in Very Remote areas accounts for around 23% of persons.

7 Non-private dwellings such as hotels, motels, hospitals, nursing homes and short-stay caravan parks were excluded from the survey. This may affect estimates of the number of people with some chronic health conditions (for example, conditions which may require periods of hospitalisation).

8 Within each selected dwelling, one adult (aged 18 years and over) and, where possible, one child (aged 2 years and over) were randomly selected for inclusion in the survey. Sub-sampling within households enabled more information to be collected from each respondent than would have been possible had all usual residents of selected dwellings been included in the survey.

9 The following groups were excluded from the survey:
  • certain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments, customarily excluded from the Census and estimated resident population
  • persons whose usual place of residence was outside Australia
  • members of non-Australian Defence Forces (and their dependents) stationed in Australia
  • visitors to private dwellings.


10 Trained ABS interviewers conducted personal interviews with selected residents in sampled dwellings. One person aged 18 years and over in each dwelling was selected and interviewed about their own health characteristics. An adult, nominated by the household, was interviewed about one child (aged 2 years and over) in the household. Selected children aged 15-17 years may have been personally interviewed with parental consent. An adult, nominated by the household, was also asked to provide information about the household, such as the combined income of other household members. Children aged 6-14 years were encouraged to be involved in the survey, particularly for the physical activity module. For further information, see Data Collection in the Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001).

11 All selected persons were required to have a follow-up phone interview at least 8 days after the face to face interview to collect further nutrition data. For those who opted in, pedometer data was reported during this telephone interview.


12 Dwellings were selected at random using a multistage area sample of private dwellings for NNPAS.

The initial sample selected for the survey consisted of approximately 14,400 dwellings. This was reduced to approximately 12,400 dwellings after sample loss (for example, households selected in the survey which had no residents in scope of the survey, vacant or derelict buildings, buildings under construction). Of those remaining dwellings, 9,519 (or 77.0%) were fully or adequately responding, yielding a total sample for the survey of 12,153 persons (aged 2 years and over).


New South
Australian Capital Territory

Households approached (after sample loss)
2 227
1 983
1 988
1 551
1 545
1 155
1 006
12 366
Households in sample
1 666
1 371
1 525
1 211
1 334
1 003
9 519
Response rate (%)
Persons in sample
2 139
1 749
1 964
1 526
1 706
1 245
1 061
12 153

13 The physical measures module of the NNPAS was voluntary. In 2011-12, 83.7% of respondents aged 2 years and over had their height and weight measured. As a proportion of the Australian population, 84.9% of persons aged 2 years and over have a height and weight measurement. BMI data from the NNPAS presented in this publication relates to the measured population only. Analysis of the characteristics of people who agreed to be measured compared to those who declined across the AHS suite of surveys indicated that age and sex were factors in non-response. Females were more likely to decline, and non-response increased with age.

14 In 2011-12, 85.7% of respondents aged 18 years and over agreed to have their blood pressure measured and had a valid blood pressure reading obtained. As a proportion of the Australian population, 86.6% of persons aged 18 years and over have a valid blood pressure measurement. Blood pressure data from the NNPAS presented in this publication relates to the measured adult population only. Analysis of the characteristics of people who agreed to be measured compared to those who declined across the AHS suite of surveys indicated that age and sex were factors in non-response. Females were more likely to decline, and non-response increased with age.

15 Of respondents aged 5 years and over, 52.8% participated in the pedometer component, and 49.0% met the pedometer day threshold for use in the reporting of selected items (see Pedometer steps chapter). Therefore, pedometer steps data presented in this publication relates to the population that met this threshold. Generally sex did not appear as a factor in non-participation, and there was a small increase in participation by age.

16 More information on response rates is available in the Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001).

17 To take account of possible seasonal effects on health and nutrition characteristics, the NNPAS sample was spread randomly across a 12-month enumeration period. Between August and September 2011, survey enumeration was suspended due to field work associated with the 2011 Census of Population and Housing.


18 Weighting is a process of adjusting results from a sample survey to infer results for the in-scope total population. To do this, a weight is allocated to each sample unit; for example, a household or a person. The weight is a value which indicates how many population units are represented by the sample unit.

19 The first step in calculating weights for each person was to assign an initial weight, which was equal to the inverse of the probability of being selected in the survey. For example, if the probability of a person being selected in the survey was 1 in 600, then the person would have an initial weight of 600 (that is, they represent 600 others). An adjustment was then made to these initial weights to account for the time period in which a person was assigned to be enumerated.

20 The weights are calibrated to align with independent estimates of the population of interest, referred to as 'benchmarks', in designated categories of sex by age by area of usual residence. Weights calibrated against population benchmarks compensate for over or under-enumeration of particular categories of persons and ensure that the survey estimates conform to the independently estimated distribution of the population by age, sex and area of usual residence, rather than to the distribution within the sample itself.

21 The NNPAS was benchmarked to the estimated resident population living in private dwellings in non-Very Remote areas of Australia at 31 October 2011. Excluded from these benchmarks were persons living in discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as well as a small number of persons living within Collection Districts that include discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The benchmarks, and hence the estimates from the survey, do not (and are not intended to) match estimates of the total Australian resident population (which include persons living in Very Remote areas or in non-private dwellings, such as hotels) obtained from other sources. For NNPAS, a seasonal adjustment was also incorporated into the person weights.

22 Survey estimates of counts of persons are obtained by summing the weights of persons with the characteristic of interest. Estimates of non-person counts (for example, number of organised physical activities) are obtained by multiplying the characteristic of interest with the weight of the reporting person and aggregating.


23 All sample surveys are subject to sampling and non-sampling error.

24 Sampling error is the difference between estimates, derived from a sample of persons, and the value that would have been produced if all persons in scope of the survey had been included. For more information refer to the Technical note. Indications of the level of sampling error are given by the Relative Standard Error (RSE) and 95% Margin of Error (MOE).

25 In this publication, estimates with an RSE of 25% to 50% are preceded by an asterisk (e.g. *3.4) to indicate that the estimate has a high level of sampling error relative to the size of the estimate, and should be used with caution. Estimates with an RSE over 50% are indicated by a double asterisk (e.g. **0.6) and are generally considered too unreliable for most purposes. These estimates can be used to aggregate with other estimates to reduce the overall sampling error.

26 The MOEs are provided for all proportion and average estimates to assist users in assessing the reliability of these types of estimates. Users may find this measure is more convenient to use, rather than the RSE, in particular for small and large proportion or average estimates. The estimate combined with the MOE defines a range which is expected to include the true population value with a given level of confidence. This is known as the confidence interval. This range should be considered by users to inform decisions based on the estimate.

27 Non-sampling error may occur in any data collection, whether it is based on a sample or a full count such as a census. Non-sampling errors occur when survey processes work less effectively than intended. Sources of non-sampling error include non-response, errors in reporting by respondents or in recording of answers by interviewers, and occasional errors in coding and processing data.

28 Non-response occurs when people cannot or will not cooperate, or cannot be contacted. Non-response can affect the reliability of results and can introduce a bias. The magnitude of any bias depends on the rate of non-response and the extent of the difference between the characteristics of those people who responded to the survey and those who did not.

29 The following methods were adopted to reduce the level and impact of non-response:
  • face-to-face interviews with respondents
  • the use of interviewers, where possible, who could speak languages other than English
  • follow-up of respondents if there was initially no response
  • weighting to population benchmarks to reduce non-response bias.

30 By careful design and testing of the questionnaire, training of interviewers, and extensive editing and quality control procedures at all stages of data collection and processing, other non-sampling error has been minimised. However, the information recorded in the survey is essentially 'as reported' by respondents, and hence may differ from information available from other sources, or collected using different methodology. For example:
  • information on intensity level of physical activities was self-reported and relies on recall. An adult respondent's level of personal fitness, their age and sex, and how they measure the level of intensity for a particular activity or understand the definitional descriptions in the questions may influence their perception of the intensity level of particular physical activities, and thus which activities they allocated to the categories of moderate or vigorous. Studies which use objective methods such as accelerometers, which do not rely on respondent perception, may therefore differ in results to those collected in self-reported surveys.


31 The classifications used to describe adult and child physical activity in this publication were developed based on those used in other ABS surveys:

32 Country of birth was classified to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), Second Edition, (cat. no. 1269.0).

33 Main occupation was classified to Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), First Release, Revision 1, 2009 (cat. no. 1221.0).

34 Descriptions for data items such as Body Mass Index and Blood pressure are included in the Glossary to this publication.


35 The NNPAS has not been collected in its current form before. However, some other ABS surveys have reported results for similar physical activity or sedentary behaviour data. These include:
  • Summary results of previous National Health Surveys were published separately in National Health Survey: Summary of Results, Australia, 1989-90, 1995, 2001, 2004-05 and 2007-08 (cat. no. 4364.0). Data presented, similar to NNPAS, include levels of adult physical activity.
  • General population summary results from the current cycle (2011-12), known as the Australian Health Survey are published separately under catalogue numbers identified by 4364.0.55.XXX. Data presented, similar to NNPAS, include levels of adult physical activity, published in Australian Health Survey: First Results (cat. no. 4364.0.55.001) and was also used in cross-tabulations for the Australian Health Survey: Health Service Usage and Health Related Actions, 2011-12 (cat. no. 4364.0.55.002) datacubes. Data from these two publications were drawn from the NHS sample.
  • Summary results from the Survey of Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities were published separately in Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, Australia, Apr 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012 (cat. no. 4901.0). Data presented, similar to NNPAS, include child participation in organised sports, watching tv and internet use.
  • Summary results from the Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation Survey were published separately in Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation, Australia, 1995-1996, 1996-1997, 1997-1998, 1998-1999, 1999-2000, 2002, 2005-06, 2009-10, 2011-12 (cat. no. 4177.0). Note: pre-2005-06 the publication was known as Participation in Sport and Physical Activities, Australia. Data presented, similar to NNPAS, include adult participation in sport and recreation, with some children's data included in 1995-96 and 1996-97.

In addition, the General Social Survey (cat. no. 4159.0) also collects information on adult participation in sports.

36 While the above surveys collect similar data to NNPAS, comparisons are generally not recommended due to varying methodologies and different question reference periods and terminology.

37 Further information about the comparability of data between surveys is in the Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001).


38 The Census and Statistics Act, 1905 provides the authority for the ABS to collect statistical information, and requires that statistical output shall not be published or disseminated in a manner that is likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation. This requirement means that the ABS must take care and make assurances that any statistical information about individual respondents cannot be derived from published data.

39 Some techniques used to guard against identification or disclosure of confidential information in statistical tables are suppression of sensitive cells, random adjustments to cells with very small values, and aggregation of data. To protect confidentiality within this publication, some cell values may have been suppressed and are not available for publication but included in totals where applicable. As a result, sums of components may not add exactly to totals due to the confidentialisation of individual cells.


40 Estimates presented in this publication have been rounded. As a result, sums of components may not add exactly to totals.

41 For pedometer and other physical activity data, minutes and number of steps are reported as whole numbers. All other units in the data are reported to one decimal place.

42 Proportions presented in this publication are based on unrounded figures. Calculations using rounded figures may differ from those published.


43 ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated; without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act, 1905.


44 Summary results from this survey are available in spreadsheet form from the 'Downloads' tab in this release.

45 For users who wish to undertake more detailed analysis of the survey data, Survey Table Builder will also be made available in 2013. Survey Table Builder is an online tool for creating tables from ABS survey data, where variables can be selected for cross-tabulation. It has been developed to complement the existing suite of ABS microdata products and services including Census TableBuilder and CURFs. Further information about ABS microdata, including conditions of use, is available via the Microdata section on the ABS web site.

46 Special tabulations are available on request. Subject to confidentiality and sampling variability constraints, tabulations can be produced from the survey incorporating data items, populations and geographic areas selected to meet individual requirements. A list of currently available data items is available from the Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001).


47 Other ABS publications which may be of interest are shown under the 'Related Information' tab of this release.

48 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are listed on the ABS website <www.abs.gov.au>. The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the website which details products to be released in the week ahead.