4363.0 - National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2014-15  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 31/07/2017   
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This topic refers primarily to those who consider they currently have arthritis. Unlike other conditions, they do not need to have 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 2014-15 NHS.


Information about arthritis was first published in the National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15 based on a sample of 19,259 people. Additional information relating to actions and medications taken for arthritis was also published in Health Service Usage and Health related Actions, Australia, 2014-15.

The arthritis module differs from other condition-specific modules (asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes/high sugar levels and kidney disease) in the 2014-15 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 so, whether they currently have the condition(s) and which one(s).

Respondents who reported that their arthritis was not current were asked no further questions in this module.

Those who reported that they currently had either gout or rheumatism were asked:
  • Whether their condition was expected to last for six months or more.

Those who reported only gout or rheumatism were asked no further questions in this module.

Respondents who identified a current arthritis condition, other than gout or rheumatism, were asked:
  • Whether they had ever been told by a doctor or nurse that they have the condition
  • If so, the age at which they were diagnosed.

Respondents whose arthritis was not diagnosed were asked no further questions in this module.

Respondents with current and diagnosed arthritis were also asked whether they had taken any of the following actions for their condition in the last 2 weeks (shown on a prompt card):
  • 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 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 reported having current and diagnosed arthritis were then sequenced to the Actions module in which they were asked questions about consultations with health professionals, use of medical facilities and time away from study/school or work, in relation to, or as a result of, 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.

Data items

The questionnaire, 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 2014-15 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 or not ever told, but condition current and long-term.

Comparability with 2011-12

Estimates of the number of people with arthritis are considered directly comparable between the 2011-12 and 2014-15 NHS.

During processing of 2014-15 NHS data, an issue with coding of 'Gout' and 'Rheumatism' in the 2007-08 and 2011-12 NHS was identified in which some people who reported having these conditions were erroneously allocated a status of 'current and long-term', resulting in over-estimation of prevalence in 2007-08 and 2011-12. In 2007-08 'Gout' was over-reported by approximately 800,000 people and 'Rheumatism' by approximately 290,000 persons, while in 2011-12 'Gout' was over-reported by approximately 280,000 people and 'Rheumatism' by approximately 145,000 people. Data for 2007-08 and 2011-12 for these two conditions are not comparable to other years. ABS conducted investigations to address this issue and have attached i-notes to various publications with revisions. Data for 2014-15 have been correctly coded.