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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Although the 2007-08 NHS collected information on all long-term conditions it had a particular focus on chronic diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart and circulatory conditions, mental health and obesity. Survey findings for these conditions are discussed briefly below.


In the 2007-08 NHS 15% of persons reported that they currently had arthritis: 13% of males and 17% of females. Of those with arthritis, 14% had rheumatoid arthritis and 51% had osteoarthritis. The proportion of people with arthritis increased with age, from less than 1% of people aged less than 25 years to 48% of people aged 65 years and over.

Overall, 3% of persons had osteoporosis: 1% of males and 5% of females. Like arthritis, the proportion of people with osteoporosis increased with age, from less than 1% of people aged less than 25 years to 16% of people aged 65 years and over.

Of those who reported currently having arthritis/osteoporosis, 34% discussed self management of their arthritis/osteoporosis with a GP or specialist in the last 12 months.

Excluding the use of pharmaceutical medications or vitamins, minerals and herbal or natural treatments, the most common actions people with arthritis/osteoporosis took in relation to their condition in the last two weeks were that they exercised most days (19%), did weight, strength or resistance training (9%), lost weight (8%) or used massage as a treatment (8%).


In 2007-08, 10% of people in Australia reported asthma as a current and long-term condition (9% of males and 11% of females). The prevalence of asthma in most age groups was 9-10%. The prevalence in the 15-24 years and 75 years and over age groups was higher at 11%.

The most common action taken for asthma was the use of pharmaceutical medications (54% of those with asthma). The use of medications differed markedly across age groups, from 44% of people aged less than 15 years to 76% of people aged 65 years and over.

In the last 12 months, 37% of those with asthma discussed self management of their asthma with their general practitioner or specialist, and 9% visited a hospital or emergency department. Of those with asthma who were employed, at school or studying, 22% had a day away from work, school or study in the last 12 months due to their asthma condition. Twenty-one per cent of persons with asthma have a written asthma action plan.


In interpreting data from the 2007-08 NHS about persons with cancer, it should be noted that the survey excluded persons in hospitals, nursing and convalescent homes and hospices. The exclusion of these groups is expected to have a greater effect on the data for cancer than for most other conditions.

In the 2007-08 NHS it is estimated that 2% of the population had a medically diagnosed neoplasm. Of these people, 89% reported a malignant neoplasm and 12% reported a benign neoplasm or neoplasm of uncertain nature. Skin cancer accounted for 37% of all malignant neoplasms.

Neoplasms were most prevalent in persons aged 65 years and over (6%).


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 hypertensive disease (high blood pressure), reported by 9% of the population, which increased in prevalence from 10% in the 45 to 54 year age group to 39% of those aged 75 years and over.

Circulatory conditions were mostly experienced by people in middle and older age groups. Almost one in five (19%) of those aged 45 to 54 years had a current long-term circulatory condition, rising progressively to 62% of those aged 75 years and over.

High cholesterol is considered a risk factor for some circulatory conditions. High cholesterol levels were reported by 6% of the population, with the prevalence highest for those in the 65-74 year and 75 years and over age groups (19% and 16% respectively).


An estimated 818,200 persons (4.0% of the population) in 2007-08 had diabetes mellitus that had been medically diagnosed (excluding those with gestational diabetes), an increase from the proportion reported in the 2004-05 NHS (3.6%). A further 35,500 people reported that they currently had high sugar levels in blood or urine, but had not been diagnosed with diabetes. The estimates for diabetes and high sugar levels understate the true prevalence of these conditions in the community, as they exclude those cases which have remained undetected. The majority of people with diabetes reported that they had Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes (88%), 10% reported Type 1 (sometimes referred to as insulin dependent diabetes) while 2% reported diabetes, but did not know which type.

The proportions of males and females reporting diabetes mellitus were different at 5% and 3% respectively. As shown below the age profiles for persons with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes differed markedly.

Seventy-seven per cent of people with diabetes had discussed self management of their diabetes with a GP or specialist in the last 12 months. Seventy-five per cent of people with diabetes reported that they were following a changed eating pattern/diet due to their diabetes, 27% reported that they had exercised most days in the last 2 weeks, and 17% reported they were losing weight. Males were more likely to exercise for diabetes (30%) than females (23%).

Of those with diabetes, 46% tested their blood glucose levels at least once a day and a further 22% tested their blood glucose levels at least once a week; 30% had their feet checked at least once a month and 14% had their feet checked every two to three months. Twenty-eight per cent had not had a foot check in the last 12 months.


In both 2007-08 and 2004-05, 11% of respondents reported having a long-term mental or behavioural problem that was identified by a medical professional. In 2007-08 the most commonly reported problems were classified into two groups, mood (affective) problems such as depression (6% of males and 9% of females) and anxiety related problems such as phobias (3% of males and 4% of females).

To complement the data on long-term conditions, additional information on mental health was collected from adult respondents using the Kessler 10 Scale (K10), a 10 item scale of current psychological distress. The K10 asks about negative emotional states in the four weeks prior to interview. The results from the K10 are grouped into four categories: low (indicating little or no psychological distress); moderate; high; and very high levels of psychological distress. Based on research from other population studies, a very high level of psychological distress, as shown by the K10, may indicate a need for professional help. For more information on the Kessler Psychological distress scale see Chapter 3 - Health Status Indicators in the National Health Survey: Users' Guide (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001).

A little over two-thirds (67%) of adults were classified to low levels of current psychological distress, 21% to moderate levels, 9% to high levels and 4% to very high levels. Since the 2004-05 NHS those classified in the high or very high levels has not changed. Proportionally fewer males than females, across most age groups shown in this publication, reported high to very high levels of distress. Of those who had very high levels of distress, 60% were female.

Thirty-four per cent of adults with a mental health condition reported that they had used some medication (pharmaceutical medication and/or vitamins, minerals or herbal treatments) for their mental health in the previous two weeks. Of those using medication for a mental health condition, 73% reported using antidepressants, 22% used sleeping tablets and 20% used medications for anxiety or nerves. Use of medications for those who reported a mental health condition was higher overall in older age groups (for example, 46% of persons aged 55-64 years compared with 22% of those aged less than 35 years).


Just over one in three people (36%) reported a disability or long-term restrictive condition. Of these, 13% had a profound or severe core activity restriction.

Twenty-six per cent of those aged 18 years and over with a profound or severe activity limitation were employed, 61% had a pensioner concession card, 36% had private health insurance, and 40% had a checkup with their GP at least once a month.