4811.0 - National Health Survey: Mental Health, Australia, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/12/2003   
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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 and their definitions are contained in the 2001 National Health Survey: Users' Guide.

Actions taken

Refers to one or more of the following 'health related' actions taken, in relation to the respondent's own health, in the 2 weeks prior to interview:

  • discharge from a stay in hospital as an admitted patient
  • visit to casualty/emergency department at hospital
  • visit to outpatients department at hospital
  • visit to day clinic
  • consultation with general practitioner (GP) or specialist
  • dental consultation
  • consultation with other health professional (OHP)
  • days away from work or school/study (due to own illness or injury)
  • other days of reduced activity (days other than days away from work or school/study) due to own illness or injury.

Points to note:

Use of medications has been included in 'actions' data from previous surveys but is excluded from 'actions' data in 2001 because coverage of medication use is incomplete in the 2001 survey.

Days away from work or school to care for another are excluded from 'actions' data.

Alcohol risk level

Adults were classified by 'alcohol risk level' based on their estimated average daily alcohol consumption in the seven days prior to interview. Average daily consumption in the previous seven days was estimated using two components:

  • the number of days on which the respondent reported consuming alcohol in the previous week
  • the quantity consumed on the three most recent days on which they consumed alcohol in that week. For people who drank on no more than three days in the last week, their daily average was simply the total consumed divided by seven.

Risk levels are based on the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), 2001, Australian Alcohol Guidelines: Health Risks and Benefits (http://www.nhmrc.gov.au) risk levels for harm in the long-term, and assumes the level of alcohol consumption recorded for the survey period is typical. The average daily consumption of alcohol associated with the risk levels is as follows:



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

Drinking status information was also collected for those who did not consume any alcohol in the seven days prior to interview:
  • Last consumed more than one week to less than 12 months ago
  • Last consumed two months or more ago
  • Never consumed.

Body Mass Index

Calculated from self-reported height and weight information, using the formula weight (kilogram) divided by the square of height (metre). To produce a measure of the prevalence of overweight or obesity in adults, BMI values are grouped according to the table below.


Grade 3 thinness (BMI
Grade 2 thinness (BMI 16.00-16.99)
Grade 1 thinness (BMI 17-18.49)
Normal range
Normal range (BMI 18.5-19.99)
Normal range (BMI 20.00-24.99)
Grade 1 overweight (BMI 25.00-29.99)
Grade 2 overweight (BMI 30.00-39.99)
Grade 3 overweight (BMI >=40.00)


People who reported that they had worked in a job, business or farm during the reference week (the full week prior to the date of interview); or that they had a job in the reference week but were not at work.

Exercise level

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


less than 100 (includes no exercise)
100 to less than 1,600
1,600-3,200, or more than 3,200 but less than two hours of vigorous exercise
more than 3,200 and two hours or more of vigorous exercise

Highest educational qualification

The level of the highest educational qualification obtained since leaving school.

Household composition

Based on usual residents of households, as reported at the time of the survey.


International Classification of Disease: 9th revision (ICD-9) and 10th Revision (ICD-10). In the 2001 NHS, classifications developed by ABS but based on ICD-9 and ICD-10 are used in survey output. The ICD-9 based classification is primarily for the purposes of comparing conditions data from the 2001 survey with data from previous NHSs.

Index of relative socioeconomic disadvantage


Injury event

An injury event is an event meeting the following criteria:

  • the event was an accident, harmful incident, exposure to harmful factors or other incident
  • which occurred in the four weeks prior to interview
  • which resulted in an injury
  • which resulted in one or more of the following actions being taken: consulting a health professional, seeking medical advice, receiving medical treatment, reducing usual activities, other treatment of injury such as taking medications, or using a bandage or ban aid or heat or ice pack.

Kessler 10 (K10)

See Psychological distress.

Labour force status

Refers to the employment situation of respondents at the time of the survey. Categories are:

  • employed (aged 15 years and over and had a job in the week prior to the survey)
  • unemployed (aged 15 years and over, were not employed and actively looked for work in the four weeks prior to the survey)
  • not in the labour force (all children less than 15 years, and persons 15 years and over who were neither employed nor unemployed).

Long-term condition

A condition which was current at the time of the survey and which, in the respondent's opinion, had lasted for six months or more, or which he or she expected would last for six months or more. Some conditions reported were assumed to be long-term conditions: these included asthma, cancer, diabetes insipidus, diabetes mellitus types 1 and 2, rheumatic heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Long-term mental and behavioural problems

The range of major mental problems included in the survey are those which are considered to have the highest rates of prevalence in the population. On this basis, the long-term mental and behavioural problems included in the 2001 NHS were:

  • Organic mental problems-mental problems grouped together on the basis of them having a commonality of a demonstrable etiology in cerebral disease, brain injury, or other insult leading to cerebral dysfunction for example dementia and delirium.
  • Alcohol and drug problems-these disorders are attributable to the use of one or more psychoactive substances, which may or may not have been medically prescribed for example alcohol, tobacco, sedatives and hallucinogens.
  • Mood (affective) disorders-a change in mood or affect to depression or to elation with or without associated anxiety. This problem tends to be recurrent and the individual onset may often be related to stressful events or situations for example, depression, mania and bipolar.
  • Anxiety related problems-exists in association with psychological stress for example, feelings of anxiousness and nervousness.
  • Problems of psychological development-impairment or delay in the development of functions that are strongly related to biological maturation of the central nervous system.
  • Behavioural and emotional problems with usual onset in childhood/adolescence-lack of persistence in activities that require cognitive involvement and a tendency to move from one activity to another without completing any one, together with disorganised, ill regulated and excessive activity. Several other abnormalities maybe associated.
  • Other mental and behavioural problems-all other mental and behavioural problems.
  • Symptoms and signs involving cognitions, perceptions, emotional state and behaviour.

Main language spoken at home

Obtained for adults only and refers to whether a language other than English is spoken at home, solely or in conjunction with English and/or languages other than English.

National Health Priority Areas (NHPA)

Included cancer, diabetes/high sugar levels, heart and circulatory conditions, injuries, mental health and asthma in 2001. The area covering arthritis and musculoskeletal diseases has been added in 2002 and was used in this publication under NHPAs.

Other health professional (OHP)


  • Aboriginal health worker (n.e.c.)
  • Accredited counsellor
  • Acupuncturist
  • Alcohol and drug worker (n.e.c.)
  • Audiologist/Audiometrist
  • Chemist (for advice)
  • Chiropodist/Podiatrist
  • Chiropractor
  • Dietitian/Nutritionist
  • Herbalist
  • Hypnotherapist
  • Naturopath
  • Nurse
  • Occupational therapist
  • Optician/Optometrist
  • Osteopath
  • Physiotherapist/Hydrotherapist
  • Psychologist
  • Social worker/Welfare officer
  • Speech therapist/Pathologist

Other mental health profesional


  • Accredited counsellor
  • Alcohol and drug worker (n.e.c.)
  • Social worker/Welfare officer


The number of cases of a particular characteristic (e.g. a specific long-term condition such as cancer) that are present in a population at one point in time. This differs from incidence, which refers to the number of new cases of a particular characteristic, such as cancer, which occur within a certain period. Prevalence and incidence can also be presented as proportions of the population of interest.

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 four 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)
  • Very high (30-50)

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.

Further information about the K10 may be found in the ABS publication: Information Paper: Use of the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale in ABS Health Surveys, Australia (cat. no. 4817.0.55.001). This publication, the 2001 National Health Survey: Users’ Guide, and copies of the 2001 NHS questionnaire are available on the ABS web site .

Risky/high risk alcohol consumption

Is a combination of Moderate or 'Risky' and High risk alcohol consumption levels. See Alcohol risk level.

Role limitations due to mental health

In context of mental wellbeing, role limitation refers to having accomplished less than desired, or having worked or performed other regular daily activities less carefully than usual, because of emotional problems. In the 2001 NHS this information was obtained from two questions on role limitations from the mental health dimension of the SF12, which referred to limitations in the four weeks prior to interview.


One of 5 of the Socio-economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFAs) compiled by the ABS following each population census. Each index summarises different aspects of the socioeconomic condition of areas. The index of Relative Socioeconomic Disadvantage is the SEIFA index most frequently used in health analysis. The particular attributes summarised by this index include low income, low educational attainment, high unemployment and jobs in relatively unskilled occupations.

Most commonly, SEIFAs are used to group survey respondents into quintiles or deciles of a particular index. Comparisons can then be made between respondents living in areas based on SEIFA quintiles (or deciles) across a range of health-related characteristics such as self-assessed health status.

The indexes are compiled at the level of the Census Collector's District (CD) in which a person lives. The indexes currently available are those compiled following the 2001 census. For this publication the SEIFA's using the 1996 census was used. Further information about the SEIFAs see Information Paper: Census of Population and Housing- Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas, Australia,1996 (cat. no. 2039.0)

Smoker status

Refers to the smoking status of adults at the time of the survey, and incorporates the notion of (regular) smoking, as reported by respondents. Categories are:

  • Current regular (i.e. daily) smoker
  • Current smoker not regular
  • Ex-regular smoker
  • Never smoked regularly.

Smoking refers to the 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.

Type of medication used for mental wellbeing

Refers to the type of medication reported by adult respondents as used for their mental wellbeing in the two weeks prior to interview. Includes vitamins and minerals, natural and herbal medications and the following types of pharmaceutical medications:

  • sleeping tablets/capsules
  • tablets/capsules for anxiety or nerves
  • tranquillisers
  • antidepressants
  • mood stabilisers
  • other medications for mental health.


An unemployed person was defined as one who met all of the following criteria:

  • who was not employed during the reference week
  • had actively looked for full-time or part-time work at any time in the four weeks up to the end of the reference week
  • was available for work in the reference week.