4806.0 - National Health Survey: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Results, Australia, 1995  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/01/1999   
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January 27, 1999
Embargoed 11:30am (AEST)

Indigenous Australians: Fewer with health insurance, higher hospital use

Indigenous Australians had private health insurance at only one-quarter the rate of other Australians in 1995, and were more likely to have used hospital facilities, a new publication released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals.

Forty-three percent of non-Indigenous adults living outside of remote areas said they had private health cover at the time of the survey, while only 11% of Indigenous adults living in the same areas did. The survey pre-dated recent Government initiatives to increase the levels of private cover.

Although Indigenous people were no more likely than other Australians to report visiting a doctor in the two weeks before being interviewed, they were more than twice as likely to say they had recently been to hospital, whether as an inpatient, to casualty, or as an outpatient.

The information comes from the 1995 National Health Survey, the first study about health that allows direct comparisons between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people at the national level. The results are based on interviews with over 50,000 people living in non-remote areas across Australia. The survey included a broad range of questions about what illnesses and health conditions people had and what actions people took for their health, as well as about other factors that can influence health, such as smoking, alcohol use and obesity.

Diabetes and asthma were among the health conditions more commonly reported in the survey by Indigenous people than by other Australians. Diabetes was 7-8 times more common among Indigenous than non-Indigenous people aged 25-54 years old, and was twice as high after age 55. Asthma was more commonly reported by Indigenous people than by other Australians in every age group, and was the most common chronic condition among Indigenous children and young adults.

Although the health of Indigenous people was worse overall, some of the consequences of ageing were shared equally by Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Almost all people aged 55 years and over said they had problems with their eyes or their vision, and more than one in four said they had problems with their ears or hearing.

Details are in National Health Survey: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Results, Australia (cat. no. 4806.0) available from ABS bookshops. This media release and a summary of the main findings can be found on this site.