4392.0 - National Health Survey: First Results, 1995  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/12/1996  Ceased
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This publication contains the first preliminary results from the National Health Survey (NHS) conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 1995. Details of further publications and other releases of statistics from the NHS are contained in the Explanatory Notes.

The statistics shown in this publication represent a selection of the statistics available, chosen to provide an overview of the main topics covered in the survey. They are subject to change as further processing of the data is undertaken.

Tables in this publication have been arranged into three broad groups, reflecting the main topic areas
covered by the survey:

  • indicators of health status, both self-assessed and through reported recent and long-term conditions;
  • actions people have taken in relation to their health, either as a result of illness or for other reasons; and
  • lifestyle behaviours and other factors which may influence health.

A brief description of the survey, its concepts, methodology and procedures is contained in the Explanatory Notes. More detailed information on the nature of the NHS, its objectives, content and the concepts, methods and procedures used in the collection of data are provided in 1995 National Health Survey, Users Guide (4363.0).

The 1995 NHS Data Reference Package contains a set of the questionnaires used for the survey, a list of output data items and other material designed to assist users in making best use of the survey data.


Self-reported health status

Some 83% of persons aged 15 years and over reported that their health was either good, very good or excellent. This proportion was similar for both males and females. As might be expected, the proportion of people stating their health as good or better declined with age. However, even among those aged 75 or more, over half (59%) reported their health as good, very good or excellent (table 1). A higher proportion of females than males in younger age groups (1534) assessed their health as fair or poor, while the reverse was the case in older age groups (45 and over).

Recent illness

Headaches were the most commonly reported recent illness condition, experienced by an estimated 11% of males and 15% of females (table 2). Other frequently reported recent illness conditions were arthritis (8.5%), hypertension (8.3%) and asthma (6.5%).

Age (years)

Long-term conditions

Sight disorders of refraction and accommodation were the most commonly reported long-term conditions: an estimated 21% of the population were far-sighted, a further 20% short-sighted and 14% experienced other long-term disorders of refraction and accommodation (table 3). Other more frequently reported long-term conditions were arthritis (15%), hayfever (14%) and asthma (11%). Asthma was the most frequently reported long-term condition among children, with 16% of children aged less than 15 years having the condition.

General health and well being

The NHS measured general health and well-being through the SF-36 Health Survey. The SF-36 produces a score from 0100 for each of eight dimensions of health, with higher scores indicating a better state of health or well-being (see Glossary, page 26). The mean scores for most dimensions of health described by the SF-36 showed a marked fall with age, particularly in those dimensions reflecting physical health. For example, the mean score for physical functioning fell from 90 for 1824 year olds to 53 for those persons aged 75 and over. However, mean scores for the mental health dimension were fairly constant at around 75, increasing slightly in older age groups (table 4).

Health-related actions

Three-quarters of the population took one or more health-related action during the two weeks prior to the survey (table 5). Use of medications was the most common action taken. An estimated 30% used vitamins/minerals or natural/herbal remedies, and 59% used other medications. Some 20% of males and 26% of females had consulted a doctor during the two weeks prior to the survey.

Health risk factors

Compared with results from a previous survey in 1989-90, the recent survey indicates an increase in healthier lifestyles by adult Australians (table 8). The proportions of adults who smoked (24%), did little or no regular exercise (63%) or who drank alcohol at medium or high risk levels (8%) were lower in 1995 than in 1989-90. Similarly, the proportion of the population who where overweight or obese also showed a slight decline. Of those who reported their weight and height in the 1995 survey, 35% were overweight or obese, down from 38% in 1989-90.


(a) Percentage of persons in each age group.


Some 14% of persons reported recent and/or long-term conditions resulting from an accident or incident (table 9). Dislocations, sprains, strains and fractures were the injuries most commonly reported. Slightly over one in four injury accidents (as defined for this survey) involved a fall, and accidents were more likely to occur at work (39%), while travelling (15%), or outside own home or some-one else's home (13%).

Womens health

Proportionately more women reported in the 1995 survey that they used breast and cervical cancer screening techniques/services than reported in the 1989-90 survey. Some 28% of women aged 1864 years reported having a mammogram in the last three years, and 73% reported having a had a pap smear test in that period. This compared with 13% and 71% in 1989-90.