4364.0 - National Health Survey: Summary of Results, 2007-2008 (Reissue)  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/08/2009   
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The definitions used in this survey are not necessarily identical to those used for similar items in other collections. Additional information about the items is contained in the 2007-08 National Health Survey (NHS); Users' Guide, which will be available on the ABS web site <https://www.abs.gov.au> from September 2009.

Alcohol consumption risk level

Alcohol consumption risk levels in the long term were derived from the average daily consumption of alcohol by persons aged 15 years and over for 3 days of the week prior to interview and are grouped into relative risk levels as defined by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2001 as follows:


Consumption per day
Risk level Males Females

Low risk 50 mLs or less 25 mLs or less
Risky More than 50 mLs, up to 75 mLs More than 25 mLs, up to 50 mLs
High risk More than 75 mLs More than 50 mLs

(a) One standard drink contains 12.5 mLs of alcohol.

It should be noted that risk level as defined by the NHMRC is based on regular consumption levels of alcohol where as estimates of risk from the NHS do not take into account whether consumption in the reference week was more, less or the same as usual.

The level of long term risk is associated with regular daily patterns of drinking. Drinking status information was also collected for those who did not consume any alcohol in the 7 days prior to interview. Categorised as:
  • Last consumed more than one week to less than 12 months ago;
  • Last consumed 12 months or more ago; and
  • Never consumed.

Ancillary cover

Any cover provided by private insurance organisations for health-related services other than medical or hospital cover (e.g. physiotherapy, dental, optical, chiropractic and ambulance).


Arthritis is characterised by an inflammation of the joints often resulting in pain, stiffness, disability and deformity.


A chronic disease marked by episodes of wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath associated with widespread narrowing of the airways within the lungs and obstruction of airflow. To be current, symptoms of asthma or treatment for asthma must have occurred in the last 12 months.

Bodily pain

Indication of the severity of any bodily pain that the respondent had experienced (from any and all causes) during the last 4 weeks. This is a self-assessment from the SF36 international instrument.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Calculated from height and weight information, using the formula weight (kg) divided by the square of height (m). To produce a measure of the prevalence of underweight, normal weight, overweight or obesity in adults, BMI values are grouped according to the table below which allows categories to be reported against both the World Health Organization (WHO) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines.


Underweight Less than 18.5
Normal range 18.5 to less than 20.0
20.0 to less than 25.0
Overweight 25.0 to less than 30.0
Obese 30.0 and greater

Separate BMI classifications were produced for children. BMI scores were created in the same manner described above but also took into account the age and sex of the child. There are different cutoffs for BMI categories (underweight/normal combined, overweight or obese) for male and female children. These categories differ to the categories used in the adult BMI classification and follow the scale provided in Cole TJ, Bellizzi MC, Flegal KM and Dietz WH, Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: international survey, BMJ 2000; 320. For a detailed list of the cutoffs used to calculate BMI for children see 2007-08 National Health Survey Users' Guide cat. no. (4363.0.55.001).

Cause of condition

Asked in respect of all the current long term conditions which the respondent had previously reported. This refers to the respondent's perception of whether the condition was the result of an injury.


See long term medical condition.

Current daily smoker

A current daily smoker is an adult who reported that they regularly smoked one or more cigarettes, cigars or pipes per day. See also Smoker status.

Days away from work or study

Refers to days on which the respondent was away from work, school or other educational institution for at least half the day. Absences included days away due to a respondent’s own illness or injury.

Diabetes mellitus

A chronic condition in which blood glucose levels become too high due to the body producing little or no insulin, or not using insulin properly.

Dietary guidelines

As specified by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for fruit and vegetable consumption. See Usual intake of fruit and Usual intake of vegetables.

Disability status

A disability or restrictive long term health condition exists if a limitation, restriction, impairment, disease or disorder, has lasted, or is expected to last for six months or more, and which restricts everyday activities.

It is classified by whether or not a person has a specific limitation or restriction. Specific limitation or restriction is further classified by whether the limitation or restriction is a limitation in core activities or a schooling/employment restriction only.

There are four levels of core activity limitation (profound, severe, moderate and mild) which are based on whether a person needs help, has difficulty, or uses aids or equipment with any of the core activities (self care, mobility or communication). A person's overall level of core activity limitation is determined by their highest level of limitation in these activities.


Persons aged 15 years and over who had a job or business, or who undertook work without pay in a family business for a minimum of one hour per week. Includes persons who were absent from a job or business. See also Unemployed and Not in the labour force.

Exercise level

Based on frequency, intensity (i.e. walking, moderate exercise and vigorous exercise) and duration of exercise (for fitness, recreation or sport) in the two weeks prior to the interview. From these components, an exercise score was derived using factors to represent the intensity of the exercise:
  • 3.5 for walking
  • 5.0 for moderate exercise
  • 7.5 for vigorous exercise

Scores were grouped into the following four categories:



Very low(a) Score less than 100
Low Score of 100 to less than 1,600
Moderate Score of 1,600 to 3,200, or score of more than 3,200 but with less than 2 hours of vigorous exercise.
High Score of more than 3,200 plus 2 hours or more of vigorous exercise

(a) Includes no exercise.

Inadequate exercise levels are sedentary and low exercise levels. Sedentary refers to sitting in one place for extended periods of time.

For more information see 2007-08 National Health Survey Users' Guide cat. no. (4363.0.55.001).

Fat content of milk

An indication of intake of fat. Categorised as:
  • Whole/full cream (3% fat or more, 68% of 5-17 years age group)
  • Reduced fat (around 1 or 2%, 23% of 5-17 years age group)
  • Skim (less than 1%, 6% of 5-17 years age group)
  • Does not drink milk (2%)
  • Does not know fat content (1%)

Government health card

Refers to coverage by the following government-issued cards which entitle the card holder, and in some cases their dependents, to a variety of health benefits or concessions (e.g. medical care, hospital treatment/accommodation, supply of pharmaceuticals, free of charge or at reduced rates).
  • Any cards from the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA);
  • Health Care Card (including the low income health care card);
  • Pensioner Concession Card; and
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.

Heart, stroke and vascular conditions

A subset of reported long term conditions comprising the following:
  • Angina and other ischaemic heart disease;
  • Cerebrovascular disease;
  • Heart failure,
  • Oedema; and
  • Diseases of arteries, arterioles and capillaries.

Health risk factors

Specific lifestyle and related factors impacting on health, including:
  • Tobacco smoking;
  • Alcohol consumption;
  • Exercise;
  • Body mass; and
  • Dietary behaviours - fruit, vegetable and milk consumption.

Hospital cover

Health insurance provided by a private insurance organisation to cover all or part of the costs of private accommodation in a public hospital, charges for private hospital treatment and care in a public hospital by a doctor of the patient's choice.


A household is defined as one or more persons, at least one of whom is at least 15 years of age, usually resident in the same private dwelling. In this survey, only households with at least one adult (aged 18 years and over) were included.

Household structure

Refers to the composition of the household to which the respondent belonged. In this publication households are categorised as persons living alone, couple only, couple with child(ren), and other households.


High sugar levels in blood or urine.

The Index of disadvantage

This is one of four Socio Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFAs) compiled by ABS following each Census of Population and Housing. The indexes are compiled from various characteristics of persons resident in particular areas; the index of disadvantage summarises attributes such as low income, low educational attainment, high unemployment and jobs in relatively unskilled occupations. As shown in this publication 1st quintile refers to the most disadvantaged group, while 5th quintile refers to the least disadvantaged group. For further information about SEIFAs see Chapter 6 of the 2007-08 National Health Survey: Users' Guide. (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001)

Ischaemic heart disease

A disease of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle.

Long term condition

A medical condition (illness, injury or disability) which has lasted at least six months, or which the respondent expects to last for six months or more. Some reported conditions were assumed to be long term, including asthma, arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, rheumatic heart disease, heart attack, angina, heart failure and stroke. Rheumatic heart disease, heart attack, angina, heart failure and stroke are also assumed to be current.

Mental health conditions

Equivalent to Mental and behavioural problems. Includes anxiety related problems such as phobias and mood (affective) problems such as depression.

Moderate exercise

Exercise for fitness, recreation, or sport which caused a moderate increase in heart rate or breathing.


A neoplasm is a new growth of abnormal tissue (a tumour). Tumours can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancer). Cancer refers to several diseases and can affect most types of cells in various parts of the body.

Not in the labour force

Persons who are not employed or unemployed as defined, including persons who:
  • Are retired
  • No longer work
  • Do not intend to work in the future
  • Are permanently unable to work
  • Have never worked and never intend to work.


A swelling of any organ or tissue due to accumulation of excess fluid.


A condition that thins and weakens bone mineral density, generally caused by loss of calcium, which leads to increased risk of fracture. Data was collected from persons aged 15 years and over plus those with gout, rheumatism or arthritis.

Other health professionals

Includes consultation, for own health reasons, with one or more of the following:
  • Accredited counsellor;
  • Acupuncturist;
  • Chemist (advice only);
  • Chiropodist/podiatrist;
  • Chiropractor;
  • Diabetes educator;
  • Dietitian/nutritionist;
  • Naturopath;
  • Nurse;
  • Occupational therapist;
  • Optician/optometrist;
  • Osteopath;
  • Physiotherapist/hydrotherapist;
  • Psychologist;
  • Social worker/welfare officer;

Pharmaceutical medication

Any medication used in the two weeks prior to interview for the treatment of asthma, arthritis, osteoporosis, heart and circulatory conditions, diabetes, mental health or psychological distress. It does not include medication identified by respondents as vitamins or minerals, or natural or herbal medication.

Private health insurance and cover

Refers to the private health insurance status at the time of the survey of persons aged 15 years and over. The category 'With cover' includes those with hospital and/or ancillary cover, and those with cover but the type of cover was unknown.

Psychological distress

Derived from the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale -10 items (K10). This is a scale of non-specific psychological distress based on 10 questions about negative emotional states in the 4 weeks prior to interview. The K10 is scored from 10 to 50, with higher scores indicating a higher level of distress; low scores indicate a low level of distress. In this publication, scores are grouped as follows:
  • Low 10-15;
  • Moderate 16-21;
  • High 22-29; and
  • Very high 30-50.

Data is only collected from respondents aged 18 years and over.

Self-assessed body mass

Respondents reported assessment of himself/herself as being underweight, of acceptable weight or overweight.

Self-assessed health status

A person's general assessment of their own health against a five point scale from excellent through to poor.

Self management

A number of issues which may be discussed to assist in the management of the condition
  • The illness, its symptoms and possible effects
  • Developing a treatment plan
  • Sharing decisions with doctor about management
  • Changes to lifestyle
  • Monitor and manage the signs and symptoms
  • Manage impact on life

Smoker status

The extent to which a respondent was smoking at the time of interview, and refers to regular smoking of tobacco, including manufactured (packet) cigarettes, roll-your-own cigarettes, cigars and pipes, but excludes chewing tobacco and smoking of non-tobacco products. Categorised as:
  • Current daily smoker - a respondent who reported at the time of interview that they regularly smoked one or more cigarettes, cigars or pipes per day;
  • Current smoker- other - a respondent who reported at the time of interview that they smoked cigarettes, cigars or pipes;
  • Ex-smoker - a respondent who reported they did not currently smoke, but had regularly smoked daily, or had smoked at least 100 cigarettes, or smoked pipes, cigars, etc at least 20 times in their lifetime; and
  • Never smoked - a respondent who reported they had never regularly smoked daily, and had smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and had smoked pipes, cigars, etc less than 20 times.

Type of conditions

All reported long term medical conditions were coded to a classification developed by the ABS for use in the 2001 National Health Survey, which is based on the tenth revision of the International Classification of Diseases and Health Related Problems (ICD-10). Further information can be found in the 2007-08 National Health Survey: Users' Guide. (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001)

Type of medication

Obtained for medication reported as used in the two weeks prior to interview for asthma, arthritis, osteoporosis, heart and circulatory conditions, diabetes, mental health conditions or related to psychological distress. Included are vitamins and minerals, natural and herbal medication and pharmaceutical medication. Pharmaceutical medications are classified by generic type, based on reported medication name. The generic drug name is the non-proprietary name for the active chemicals in a medicine, in contrast to the proprietary name (trade or brand name) for a medicine.

Two items relating to type of medication are available for those with a mental health condition and for everyone aged 18 years and over related to psychological distress:
  • Type of medication as reported by respondent; eg sleeping tablet, antidepressant; and
  • Generic type of medication as per medication for other conditions: e.g. citalopram

For further information see 2007-08 National Health Survey: Users' Guide. (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001)

Type of milk

Main type of milk usually consumed, including cow's milk, soy milk, evaporated and condensed milk, and other unspecified types of milk. Fat content of milk data available on request.


Persons aged 15 years and over who were not employed and actively looking for work in the four weeks prior to the survey, and were available to start work in the week prior to the survey.

Usual daily intake of fruit

Refers to the number of serves of fruit (excluding drinks and beverages) usually consumed each day, as reported by the respondent. A serve is approximately 150 grams of fresh fruit or 50 grams of dried fruit. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has recommended a minimum of two serves of fruit per day for adults and three serves of fruit for children aged 12 to 17 years and one serve for children aged 5 to 11 years.

Usual daily intake of vegetables

Refers to the number of serves of vegetables (excluding drinks and beverages) usually consumed each day, as reported by the respondent. A serve is approximately half a cup of cooked vegetables or one cup of salad vegetables - equivalent to approximately 75 grams. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has recommended a minimum of five serves of vegetables per day for adults and four serves of vegetables for children aged 12-17 years, three serves for 8 -11 years and two serves for children aged 5- 11 years.

Vigorous exercise

Exercise for fitness, recreation or sport which caused a large increase in heart rate or breathing.

Waist circumference

Waist circumference is associated with an increased risk of metabolic complications associated with obesity. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) approved the following guidelines for Caucasian men and women:

  • Increased risk (more than or equal to 94cm)
  • Not at risk (less than 94cm)

  • Increased risk (more than or equal to 80cm)
  • Not at risk (less than 80cm)

Year of arrival

The year in which a person, reporting a country of birth other than Australia, first arrived in Australia to live for a period of one year or more.