4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, Mar 2011  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/03/2011   
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23 March 2011
Embargo: 11.30 am (Canberra Time)
Australia's gaps and gains: health and education

While overall our life expectancy continues to climb and our educational attainment increases, gaps remain between the health and education outcomes of Australians living in cities and those living elsewhere, according to the Australian Social Trends report released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Gaps and gains in health outcomes

Health outcomes differ between those living outside major cities and those living within them. In 2008, people who lived outside major cities were more likely than people in major cities to die from certain causes. They were three times as likely to die from transport accidents, almost twice as likely to die from high blood pressure, 1.7 times as likely to die from heart failure and 1.6 times as likely to die from diabetes.

Contributing to poorer levels of health, people living outside major cities were more likely to be daily smokers (1.3 times as likely as their major city counterparts) or risky drinkers (1.3 times as likely). On the other side of the coin, they were also more likely than people in major cities to eat their fruit and veggies (1.5 times as likely to have met the national guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption).

Different levels of access to, and use of, health services may also contribute to differing health outcomes. In 2009, people living in outer regional/remote areas of Australia were more likely than those living in major cities to have reported that they had waited longer than they felt was acceptable for a GP appointment (23% compared with 16%) and more likely to have gone to an emergency department because the waiting time for a GP appointment was too long (12% compared with 2%).

Life expectancy, a good indicator of population health at the national level, shows that the health of Australians overall continues to improve. Life expectancy at birth has increased by over 30 years for Australian boys and girls over the last 125 years.

Gaps and gains in education outcomes

Australia's level of educational attainment is also improving. Over the past decade, the proportion of young adults (aged 20-24 years) who had attained Year 12 increased from 71% (in 2001) to 78% (in 2010).

However, there are some Australians whose level of attainment may not be as high. Year 12 attainment rates were lower for young adults living in regional (67%) and in remote areas (64%), for young adults for whom neither parent had attained Year 12 (68%) and for young adults with a disability or restrictive long-term health condition (62%).

The educational attainment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults (aged 18 years and over) has also improved. In 2008, 71% had at least a Year 10 or basic vocational qualification, up from 48% in 1994; and the proportion of those with at least Year 12 or a skilled vocational qualification had more than doubled, from 16% to 37% over the same period.

More details on these topics are available in the March edition of Australian Social Trends, 2011 (cat.no. 4102.0).

Media Note:
  • The term risky drinkers refers to someone who, in the week prior to interview, exceeded the National Health and Medical Research Council's 2001 alcohol guideline for risk of harm in the long-term, which limits consumption to four standard drinks a day for men and two standard drinks a day for women.
  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.