4364.0.55.005 - Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Chronic Diseases, 2011-12  
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Contents >> Anaemia


Anaemia is caused by a decrease in either the number of red blood cells in the body or the quantity of haemoglobin within red blood cells. When a person is anaemic, their heart has to work harder to ensure that muscles and organs get the oxygen they need. Haemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells. It contains a large amount of iron and helps transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. The National Health Measures Survey (NHMS) measured the concentration of haemoglobin in the blood, which can help diagnose anaemia.

    Data source and definitions

    Haemoglobin levels were measured using a blood test. Abnormal levels of haemoglobin indicating a risk of anaemia are defined differently for males and females, young people, and pregnant women, as based on World Health Organization guidelines1:
    • Less than 120 g/L for people aged 12-14 years and females aged 15 years or older who are not pregnant
    • Less than 130 g/L for males aged 15 years or older
    • Less than 110 g/L for pregnant women

In Australia in 2011–12, around 760,000 people aged 18 years and over (4.5%) were at risk of anaemia, with women more likely to be at risk than men (6.4% compared with 2.5%).

The risk of anaemia was highest among older Australians, with rates rapidly increasing after the age of 65 years. People aged 75 years and older were more likely to be at risk of anaemia than all other Australians, with 16.0% in the at risk range compared with 3.6% of Australians aged less than 75 years.

Graph Image for Persons aged 12 years and over - Proportion at risk of anaemia, 2011-12

Research has shown that anaemia is associated with diabetes and chronic kidney disease.2 This was reflected in the NHMS results, where 12.6% of those at risk of anaemia had diabetes compared with 4.7% of those not at risk. They were also more likely to have abnormal eGFR, which is a measure of kidney function (16.1% compared with 3.1%).

For more information on haemoglobin, see Tables 1, 2, 3, 8 and 9 on the Downloads page of this publication.


1 World Health Organization (WHO) 2011, Haemoglobin concentrations for the diagnosis of anaemia and assessment of severity, Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition Information System, <http://www.who.int/vmnis/indicators/haemoglobin/en/ >, Last accessed 26/06/2013. Back to top
2 Mehdi, U & Toto, RD 2009, 'Anemia, Diabetes, and Chronic Kidney Disease', Diabetes Care, <http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/32/7/1320.short>, Last accessed 02/07/2013. Back to top

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