4364.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/12/2018   
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Cholesterol is a type of fat that circulates in the blood. It is essential for many metabolic processes, including the production of hormones and building cells. Too much cholesterol in the bloodstream can lead to fatty deposits building up in the blood vessels, making it harder for blood to flow and increasing the risk of heart disease or stroke[1].


In 2017-18, 6.1% of all Australians (1.5 million people) had high cholesterol, which was a decline from 7.1% in 2014-15. The prevalence has fallen to a similar rate to that observed a decade ago in 2007-08 of 5.7%.

The same proportion of males and females had high cholesterol (6.1%). As with many health conditions, the prevalence of high cholesterol increases with age with a sharp increase from age 45 years. The proportion of people with high cholesterol doubled from age 45-54 years (6.8%) to 55-64 years (14.1%) and increased to one in five people aged 65 years and over (21.2%).

Graph Image for Proportion of persons with high cholesterol, 2017-18

Source(s): National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18

In 2017–18, adults aged 18 years and over who were obese were more than twice as likely as adults who were in the normal weight range to have high cholesterol (11.2% compared to 4.5%).

Graph Image for Persons aged 18 years and over - Proportion with high cholesterol by Body Mass Index, 2017-18

Source(s): National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18


For people with high cholesterol there are often no symptoms or signs - they can have high cholesterol yet feel well[2]. In 2011-12, biomedical information was collected for the first time by ABS, including a range of cholesterol tests. Results were used to determine indicators of high or abnormal levels of cholesterol across the population. 

In 2011-12, one in three Australians aged 18 years and over (32.8% or 5.6 million people) had abnormal or high total cholesterol levels according to their blood test results (total cholesterol greater than or equal to 5.5 mmol/L). Yet only 10.1% of this group self-reported having high cholesterol as a current and long-term health condition. This suggests that the majority of people with high cholesterol results were either unaware that they had the condition or did not consider it to be a long-term or current problem. 

For more information see Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Chronic Diseases, 2011-12 (cat. no. 4364.0.55.005)


Better Health Channel, 2014, Cholesterol, <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/cholesterol>; last accessed 19/10/2018
2 Heart Foundation, Blood cholesterol, <https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/know-your-risks/blood-cholesterol>; last accessed 19/10/2018