4363.0.55.001 - Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/06/2013   
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Contents >> Health conditions >> Arthritis



This topic refers primarily to those who consider they currently have arthritis (whether or not they had been told by a doctor or nurse that they had the condition). Information about gout and rheumatism is also covered.


Information was obtained for all persons in the NHS.


The arthritis module differs from other condition-specific modules (asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes/high sugar levels and kidney disease) in the 2011-12 NHS in that respondents were not immediately asked, in the first question of the module, whether they had ever been told by a doctor or nurse they have arthritis. Instead, respondents were asked whether they have, or had ever had:

  • gout
  • rheumatism
  • arthritis
  • osteoarthritis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • other types of arthritis.

If they reported either gout or rheumatism they were then asked whether their condition was expected to last for six months or more. If they identified an arthritis condition, other than gout or rheumatism, they were asked whether they had ever been told by a doctor or nurse that they have the condition.

Respondents who reported only gout or rheumatism, identified that their arthritis was not current or that they had not been told by a doctor or nurse that they had an arthritis condition were asked no further questions in this module.

Respondents who identified their gout, rheumatism or arthritis conditions as not current or long-term did not have their condition retained in the survey as they did not have the appropriate criteria of either being diagnosed (as it was not asked) or being a long-term condition (which is the only retained group for non-diagnosed conditions).

Respondents who answered yes to whether their arthritis was current and diagnosed were asked whether they had taken the following actions for their condition in the last 2 weeks:
  • did weight/strength/resistance training
  • obtained and/or used physical aids (used at home or work)
  • water therapy
  • massage
  • changed eating pattern/diet
  • losing weight
  • exercised most days
  • other action taken.

More than one response was allowed.

Respondents who reported having current and diagnosed arthritis were then sequenced to the Actions module in which they were asked questions about whether and how many times they had seen a GP, specialist, etc. in the last 12 months for their arthritis.

Respondents were asked in a later module about all medications and health supplements they were taking, but not in relation to any specific condition. This differs from the 2007-08 NHS in which questions about medications taken for arthritis were asked within the arthritis module.

Data items

The data items and related output categories for this topic are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the Downloads page of this product.


Points to be considered in interpreting this topic include.
  • The distinction between arthritis, rheumatism and other joint disorders may be unclear to respondents, particularly those whose condition has not been medically diagnosed.
  • People resident in hospitals, nursing or convalescent homes or similar accommodation are not in scope of the NHS. As the prevalence of arthritis increases with age, the number of people with arthritis may therefore be under-estimated.
  • Those cases of arthritis reported through the 'Long-term conditions' module, rather than the 'arthritis' module, have not necessarily been diagnosed by a doctor or nurse. Along with respondents who reported they were not diagnosed but had arthritis in the 'arthritis' module, they are identified by their conditions status of 4: Not known if ever told or not ever told, but condition current and long-term.

Comparability with 2007-08

Estimates of the number of people with arthritis are considered to be comparable between 2007-08 and 2011-12. However, the following should be noted when making comparisons.
  • In 2011-12, only persons whose arthritis was current and long-term were recorded as having arthritis. Persons who reported having arthritis which was not current and long-term were recorded as not having arthritis. This differs from 2007-08, where some respondents who reported having had arthritis (that is, it was not current) were incorrectly classified as having been told by a doctor or nurse that they had arthritis, when they had answered no to this question. This does not affect comparability, as published estimates in both surveys relate to arthritis that was current and long-term only, irrespective of whether the respondent had been told by a doctor or nurse that they have arthritis.
  • In 2011-12, only persons whose gout or rheumatism was reported as current and long-term were recorded as having the condition. This differs from 2007-08, where gout and rheumatism were assumed to be current and long-term.

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