The 2021 Census measured the number of people who reported that they had at least one selected long-term health condition (LTHP), including arthritis, asthma and mental health conditions.
It is important to note that the short question used to collect this information provides useful information about the prevalence of long-term health conditions among small population groups or for smaller geographic regions, however for national and state prevalence estimates of long-term health conditions, see the ABS National Health Survey. For national and state prevalence estimates of mental disorders, see the ABS National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.
According to the 2021 Census, current service members were less likely to report a long-term health condition than those with previous service and those who had never served, reflecting the general physical and mental fitness, and younger age profile of this population. Of the 84,900 people who were currently serving in the ADF (aged 15-64 years):
- around one in five (22%) reported they had one or more long-term health conditions, with rates similar between males and females (21% and 23% respectively)
- younger current service members (15-44 years) were less likely to report a long-term health condition (16%) than those aged 45-64 years (38%).
The most common long-term health conditions reported by current service members were:
- mental health conditions (including depression and anxiety) (7% of all currently serving members)
- arthritis (6%)
- asthma (5%).
It is likely that the short question used in the Census to collect long-term health condition information underestimates the number and proportion of people with mental health conditions. For more information, see Comparing ABS long-term health conditions data sources.
Service in the ADF can increase a person’s exposure to stressful and sometimes dangerous situations, which can increase the likelihood of developing a range of physical and mental health conditions, which may not emerge until after the completion of service (6). This, together with the older age profile of previous service members, is a likely contributor to the higher incidence of long-term health conditions among those who had previously served in the ADF compared with the population who had never served.
Of the 496,300 people aged 15 years and over who had previously served in the ADF:
- three in five (60%) had a long-term health condition
- those who had previously served in the Regular service were more likely to report a long-term health condition than those whose previous service was in the Reserves only, regardless of age.