4363.0 - National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2017-18  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/04/2019   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All

Demographic characteristics


In addition to the specific health information collected, the 2017-18 NHS collected a range of descriptive demographic characteristics


In the NHS, some demographic information was collected for all people in the household, whereas other information was collected only for the respondents selected in the survey.

The following data was collected for all people in responding households:

    • Age
    • Sex
    • Indigenous status
    • Registered and social marital status (15 years and over)
    • Country of birth
    • Year of arrival in Australia (persons not born in Australia)
    • Family composition
    • Relationship in household.

The following data was collected for selected respondents only:
    • Country of birth of parents
    • Main language spoken at home (2 years and over) / Main language child under 2 years will speak at home
    • Proficiency in spoken English (2 years and over with main language other than English).



Age as reported was recorded for all persons in the household in single years. Standard output categories differ according to the topic to which the data relates. Age in five or ten year groups is most commonly used in survey output. Other non-standard groupings are available on request.

Age in months is also available for selected persons aged less than 4 years.


Male or female as reported.

Indigenous Status

Refers to whether the person is of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, as identified by an adult spokesperson within each household (i.e. not necessarily self-identified). Status is classified as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, or neither Aboriginal nor Torres Strait Islander.

Registered Marital Status

Registered marital status was recorded as reported for persons aged 15 years and over, in the following categories:
    • Never married
    • Widowed
    • Divorced
    • Separated
    • Married.

Social Marital Status

Social marital status was derived for persons aged 15 years and over, and was classified as:
    • Married - if living with another person in a couple relationship, which was reported as either a registered marriage or a defacto marriage. Included are persons living with a person of the same sex in a couple relationship.
    • Not married - if not living with another person in a couple relationship. Includes persons living alone, with other family members, or in shared accommodation. Includes persons in a registered or defacto marriage whose partners are not usually resident in the household.

Country of Birth

Each respondent was classified to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2011 (cat. no. 1269.0); a hierarchical classification based on the concept of geographic proximity. Standard output for this classification is discussed in Appendix 3: ABS Standard Classifications of this Users' Guide. Other groupings are available on request.

Year of Arrival in Australia

This item refers to the year in which a person, reporting a country of birth other than Australia, first arrived in Australia to live for a period of one year or more. Individual year of arrival was recorded and can be grouped as required for output.

Country of Birth of Parents

To obtain more details on cultural background that may influence health, respondents were asked to identify the country of birth of both their mother and father. If they did not know the country of birth of their parents, due to adoption or other reasons, they could report country of birth as unknown. The responses were coded to the same classification as personal country of birth, identified above.

Main Language Spoken at Home

Main language spoken at home was obtained for all selected persons. In 2017-18 NHS, if under 2 years of age the question asked which language the child will mainly speak at home. Language was classified at the finest level of the Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL), 2016 (cat. no. 1267.0).The abbreviated classification used in most standard output is shown in Appendix 3: ABS Standard Classifications of this Users' Guide.

Proficiency in Spoken English

Respondents aged 2 years and over, who reported they mainly spoke a language other than English at home, were asked how well they spoke English. Responses were recorded as reported by respondents against the categories:
    • Very well
    • Well
    • Not well
    • Not at all.

Children aged 2 years and over identified as not yet speaking (coded as 'Non-verbal, so described') or people for whom sign language or Auslan (Australian Sign Language) was their main language were assigned the category of Not known / Does not speak.

Data Items

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


Points to be considered in interpreting data for this topic include the following:
    • Summary characteristics of all usual residents of selected households were recorded from information supplied by 'any responsible adult' resident of the household (the ARA). Characteristics recorded were age, sex, Indigenous status, marital status, country of birth, year of arrival in Australia and relationship to other household members.

Comparability with 2014-15

In 2014-15 NHS Main language spoken at home was not collected for children under 2 years of age and were set as 'Not applicable', however this was collected in 2017-18 NHS. The remaining items and associated data are comparable with 2014-15 NHS.

More information regarding comparisons between 2014-15 NHS and previous cycles is available in the National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2014-15 (cat. no 4363.0).