4914.0.55.001 - Age Matters, Nov 2009  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/12/2009   
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Image: Latest Findings


National Health Survey
Health of older people
Health literacy
Housing mobility
Relocation across the nation


This publication presents summary results from the 2007-08 National Health Survey (NHS). The NHS collected information on a wide range of health issues, including health status of the population, long-term conditions, risk factors and disability.

Health of older people

Population ageing, and the health of older people, impacts on the overall health status of the Australian community. Increasing age is related to many long-term health conditions. In the 2007–08 NHS, 83% of people aged 65 years and over had three or more long-term health conditions.

The most common long-term conditions reported by older people were arthritis, deafness and hypertensive disease (high blood pressure). Over half of people aged 75 years and over reported some form of arthritis, of which osteoarthritis was the most prevalent. The incidence of arthritis almost doubled for people aged 55-64 years compared with those aged 45-54 years (from 19% to 37%). Other musculoskeletal and connective tissue diseases that affected a substantial proportion of the older population were osteoporosis, back problems and rheumatism.

In 2007-08, 16% of the population reported one or more long term conditions of the circulatory system. This is a broad group of conditions relating to the heart and vascular system, ranging from heart attack, to angina, stroke, varicose veins and high blood pressure. The most common of these conditions was high blood pressure, which increased in prevalence from 10% in the 45-54 year age group to 39% of those aged 75 years and over.


Disability also increases with age in the Australian community. In the 2007-08 NHS, two-thirds (67%) of people aged 65 years and over experienced a disability, while only 31% of persons aged under 65 had a disability. Physical disabilities were most common, being experienced by 69% of persons aged 65 years and over.

Persons living in non-private dwellings such as nursing homes and hospitals are not in scope of the NHS. Further details can be found in National Health Survey, Summary of Results, 2007-08 (cat no. 4364.0). Detailed information by age ranges are available in Data Cubes from that survey.

HEALTH LITERACY, AUSTRALIA, 2006 (cat. no. 4233.0)

This publication presents detailed results on Australia's health literacy, based on estimates from the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS) 2006.

The ability to access and use health information is a fundamental skill which allows people to make informed decisions and helps them to maintain their basic health. On a broader level, adequate levels of health literacy may help to reduce some of the costs in the health system, prevent illness and chronic disease, and reduce the rates of accident and death.

Health literacy affects not only a person's involvement in the formal health care system, but also decisions they make in the home, workplace and community. The level of a person's health literacy impacts on tasks such as reading dosage instructions on a package of medicine and also affects whether people seek screening or diagnostic tests.

By age

Rates of health literacy vary with age and show a similar pattern for men and women. In 2006, the rate of adequate or better health literacy increased from around one-third of both men and women aged 15-19 years to around half of all people aged 20-49 years, before declining in older age groups. The low rates of health literacy among older people (19% of males and 16% of females aged 65-74 years) are similar to results for other dimensions of literacy (see Australian Social Trends 2008, 'Adult literacy'). This may be due to the effects of age on people's mental processing skills; the length of time since leaving formal education; and the lower levels of formal education received by older generations.

Line graph: people with adequate or better health literacy (a), by sex and age group - 2006
Source: Health Literacy, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4233.0)

For more detailed information about Australia's health literacy, see Australian Social Trends, June 2009 'Health Literacy' (cat.no. 4102.0) or Health Literacy, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4233.0).

HOUSING MOBILITY AND CONDITIONS, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4130.0.55.002)

This publication presents data from the 2007-08 Survey of Income and Housing on Australian housing mobility and dwelling conditions. The selected housing topics include length of time in dwelling, number of times moved in last five years, reasons for moving, and characteristics of the previous dwelling occupied. It also includes aspects of the dwelling occupied, such as any major structural problems, repairs and maintenance carried out in the past 12 months, and sources of energy and water.

By age

The length of time people have spent in their current dwelling is strongly related to their age and their tenure and landlord type. In 2007-08, over 40% of households where the reference person was 65 to 74 years had lived in their current dwelling for 20 years or more. This rose to 52% for those where the reference person was 75 years or over.

Reasons for moving

For recent movers (i.e. where the household reference person had moved in the last five years), the main reason for moving varied by age. While family reasons was reported by over 15% of reference persons in each age range from 45 years, wanting a bigger or better home was reported more often by those up to 64 years, and wanting a smaller home or to downsize became a more common reason for households where the reference person was aged 65 years or over.

Health reasons became an important consideration for those aged 75 years and over, with that being the main reason for 23% of those household reference persons moving in the past five years.

AUSTRALIAN SOCIAL TRENDS, JUNE 2009 (cat. no. 4102.0)


Between 2001 and 2006, more than one-third of Australians (or 6.6 million people) changed their address. While over two-thirds of people (71%) who moved relocated within their city or region, 1.9 million moved a greater distance to a different city or region. Such mobility is the most important factor in the different levels of population growth within Australia's regions. This article focuses on the top ten destinations in terms of the number of net migrants arriving from elsewhere in Australia between 2001 and 2006.

Regional population growth brings with it social and economic change. Changing populations can put pressure on existing infrastructure and local environments, as well as contributing to local economies and impacting on the social fabric of a community. Regions experiencing high levels of growth are of interest to policy makers and the wider community in terms of providing basic infrastructure (roads, power, sewerage) and adequate services (health, education), as well as the environmental pressures from increasing populations and development. Regions are often interested in attracting and retaining people, particularly skilled people who can add to the economic prosperity of the region.

Who moves?

Age is strongly associated with mobility. Younger people are more mobile for employment and family reasons. They are also less likely to own their own home or to have a family.

New residents who moved to the selected high growth regions during the five years before the 2006 Census had a younger age profile than the Australian population as a whole, and were younger than people who were already resident in these regions. Overall, more than 40% of new residents were aged 20-39 years, compared with 26% of existing residents, and 30% of all Australians. Less than 9% of new residents were aged 65 years and over, while close to 15% of people already resident were in this age range in 2006.

(a) Includes high growth regions Brisbane, Gold Coast-Tweed, Sunshine Coast, Hervey Bay, Townsville, Cairns, Toowoomba, Mackay(Qld), Mandurah, Bunbury(WA).
Source: 2006 Census of Population and Housing

There are some regions however, mainly on the coast, that attract many older people. Two examples are Hervey Bay and Mandurah. People aged 55 years and over accounted for more than one-third of new residents in both regions.
Line graph: age distribution of arrivals (a) to selected major population regions - 2006 (Brisbane, Gold Coast Tweed, Sunshine Coast, Hervey Bay and Townsville)
Line graph: age distribution of arrivals (a) to selected major population regions - 2006 (Mandurah, Cairns, Toowoomba, Mackay and Bunbury)
Source: 2006 Census of Population and Housing
For more detailed information about internal migration and population growth, see Australian Social Trends, June 2009 'Relocation across the nation: internal migration and population growth' (cat. no. 4102.0). A more general overview of population patterns in Australia can be found in A Picture of the Nation: the Statistician's Report, 2006, 'On the move' (cat. no. 2070.0).