4160.0.55.001 - Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, Jun 2015  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/2015  First Issue
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Health is a concept that relates to and describes a person's state of being. Good health means different things to different people, and its meaning varies according to individual and community expectations and context. Health is often seen as multidimensional, and includes both physical conditions and mental wellbeing, as well as emotional, spiritual, cultural and social elements. Health outcomes are the result of complex interactions between a wide range of factors such as: individual traits (e.g. age and sex), personal behaviours (e.g. dietary intake) and external factors (e.g. availability of healthcare).

Many people consider themselves healthy if they are free of sickness, disease or injury. However, people with various health conditions may also see themselves as being in good health if they are able to manage their condition so that it does not greatly affect their quality of life. People with relatively minor ailments may perceive themselves to be in poor health if they aspire to a greater level of wellbeing than is suggested merely by the absence of disease. Furthermore, individuals' assessment of their own health may change as they age, for example, older people may have a different threshold for what they see as good health.


Health is a critical component of an individual's overall wellbeing. It influences not just how we feel, but how we function and participate in the community. In a national consultation conducted by the ABS in 2011-12, Australians said that being healthy was one of the most significant factors affecting an individual’s wellbeing (MAP 2013, ABS).

Information on the health status of Australians, including historical trends, includes a wide range of measures such as:

  • prevalence and incidence of health conditions, disease, disorder, injury, trauma or other health related states
  • mental and social wellbeing of individuals
  • mortality - deaths, mortality rates and life expectancy.


There are a range of events, pressures and drivers of change that have the potential to substantially affect health and wellbeing, for both individuals and the population overall. At a broad level, social determinants of health are the circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work and age, and the systems put in place to deal with illness. These circumstances are in turn shaped by wider economic, social and political forces.(World Health Organisation, 2008). These include aspects such as:
  • access to education, employment, income and other community factors
  • physical location and access to health services
  • health promotion programs
  • performance of the health care system
  • promulgation and coordination of health regulations
  • pollution, climate and other environmental factors relating to where we live
  • ageing of the population.


There are many ways that people, community groups, governments and other institutions can work to improve health outcomes in Australia, particularly to improve an individuals' abilities to positively influence and make decisions affecting their health. Some examples include:
  • improving knowledge about decisions and factors affecting health and wellbeing, such as prevention, treatment and management of chronic conditions
  • modifying health behaviours and risk factors (e.g. decreasing smoking rates, increasing levels of exercise)
  • providing support and care for those in need.


To gain a better understanding of health in Australian society, look through the pages on:
  • Learning and knowledge
  • Work
  • Crime, safety and justice
  • Family and community
  • Culture and leisure
  • Environments
  • Information, communication and technology


Need some more information on health? This section can point you in the right direction.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), National Health Performance Framework - The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) is the custodian of the National Health Performance Framework. This is an important and well utilised framework for health information.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Measures of Australia's Progress (cat. no. 1370.0) - This publication is designed to help Australians address the question, 'Is life in Australia getting better?' Measures of Australia's Progress provides a digestible selection of measures in answer to this question. Australians can use this evidence to form their own view of how our country is progressing, includes themes and measures relating to health.

The Department of Health, 2012, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework monitors progress in closing the gap in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, health system performance and broader determinants of health.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010, Framework for Measuring Wellbeing: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples - This framework maps statistical information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in the context of the interrelationships with their social and physical environments.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), ISO Health Indicators Conceptual Framework - This framework is based on Canada's health indicator framework. The health indicators conceptual model is based on a population health, or determinants of health model.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2013, How’s Life? 2013, Measuring Well-being - This publication paints a comprehensive picture of wellbeing in OECD countries and other major economies, by looking at people’s material living conditions and quality of life across the population through a wide range of comparable wellbeing indicators, includes measures relating to health.

Productivity Commission, 2015, Report on Government Services 2015 - Health - The annual Report on Government Services (RoGS) provides information on the equity, effectiveness and efficiency of government services in Australia. The Health chapter includes performance reporting for Primary and community health, Public hospitals and Mental health management.

World Health Organisation (WHO), 2008, Social Determinants of Health - Key Concepts - This release details the key concepts of social determinants of health (SDH), which are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. These forces and systems include economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies and political systems.


Health risk factors

Health risk factors are specific lifestyle and related factors impacting on health, including tobacco smoking; alcohol consumption; exercise; body mass; and dietary behaviours - fruit, vegetable and whole milk consumption.


Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Measures of Australia's Progress (cat. no. 1370.0).

World Health Organisation (WHO), 2008, Social Determinants of Health - Key Concepts.