4727.0.55.002 - Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2012-13  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 05/12/2014  First Issue
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Contents >> Health Risk Factors >> Physical activity and sedentary behaviour >> Sedentary behaviour in remote areas



Sedentary behaviour was defined as sitting down for various activities, including time spent sitting at work/study, and time spent sitting while using computers, watching television, and for other leisure activities.

For details on non-remote sedentary behaviour data, see the Sedentary behaviour in non-remote areas chapter of this Users’ Guide.


Information was collected for persons aged 5 years and over in remote areas in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nutrition Physical Activity Survey (NATSINPAS).


Respondents were asked a prompted activity question about activities they had done while sitting down on the day prior to the interview. This included sitting to watch TV, eating meals, work, study, or driving or sitting in a car.

Respondents were then asked which of the following best described what they mostly did on the day prior to the interview:

  • mostly sitting
  • mostly standing
  • mostly walking
  • mostly heavy labour or physically demanding work.

Day of week representation

With data being collected on a single day rather than a seven day basis, even representation of data across a week is not possible as a result of interview days not being evenly spread across a week.

Day of reported sedentary behaviour
Number of AATSIHS child respondents
Number of AATSIHS adult respondents


On the individual level, data reliant on one day of reporting is less likely to be representative of a week’s activities, as certain activities may occur on the same day every week and therefore be missed or have a higher weight.

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 data for this topic include the following:
  • When pick lists are offered to respondents, some bias may occur as respondents can be more likely to respond to the options with which they have been provided.
  • Due to the reporting of days not having an even spread of respondents, day of week analysis and weekend/weekday analysis is not recommended or should be done with caution.
  • Over recent years there has been an increasing focus by governments and media on health and lifestyle issues around obesity and low levels of activity. While such attention is likely to influence the levels of activity in the community, it may also have an impact on reporting behaviour; for example, creating a tendency to report what is perceived to be a desirable level of sedentary behaviour rather than the actual level.

Comparability between remote area and non-remote area sedentary behaviour data in the 2012-13 AATSIHS

The remote module was designed to provide a snapshot into remote sedentary behaviour. While there are some similarities between the non-remote and remote sedentary behaviour content, the questions and content are not considered comparable for the following reasons:
  • For adults in non-remote areas, the reference period is one week, compared with one day in remote areas.
  • Non-remote questions refer to sitting/lying down, whereas remote is only sitting.
  • The remote question has more prompted response categories than non-remote questions. Therefore there may be increased reporting of other leisure activities for adults in remote areas than non-remote areas. For non-remote children only sedentary screen-based activities were collected.
  • Where sedentary periods include more than one activity, for example using a computer while watching television, non-remote respondents were advised to only record the ‘main activity’ for that period (so that time spent on each sedentary activity could be calculated to produce a total time). Remote respondents were only asked to identify which activities they had done and therefore could report all activities they were doing no matter whether the activities were done at the same time.
  • Remote areas did not collect any information on time spent on sedentary activities.

It may be possible to draw out some similar screen-based categories in remote to those collected in non-remote for children 5-17 years and make comparisons by restricting non-remote data to the day prior to interview. However consideration of the above comparison points should be made, particularly with regard to the ‘main activity’ instructions non-remote respondents were given.

Comparability with 2004-05 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS)

Remote sedentary behaviour data were not collected in the 2004-05 NATSIHS, therefore no comparisons can be made.

Comparability with 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS)

Some data was collected in the 2008 NATSISS on making arts and crafts, watching Indigenous TV or listening to Indigenous radio. However, the focus was not on the sedentary aspect of these activities which involves sitting/lying down. Also, the 2008 NATSISS data is based on a 12 month reference period rather than a single day. Therefore data between the NATSISS and 2012-13 AATSIHS are not considered comparable.

Comparability with 2011-12 Australian Health Survey (AHS)

Comparisons between the 2011-12 AHS and 2012-13 remote area AATSIHS sedentary behaviour data are not considered possible due to the issues identified in the AATSIHS non-remote and remote comparability section above. The 2011-12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NNPAS) collected data for children 5-17 years for each of the 7 days prior to interview. Therefore, as per non-remote AATSIHS child data, it may be possible to make a small number of comparisons by limiting the NNPAS data to the day prior to interview. However, the scope of NNPAS does not cover very remote areas and so comparisons are not recommended. In addition, the comparability issues raised previously should still be taken into consideration.

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