4364.0 - National Health Survey: Summary of Results, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/10/2002   
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October 25, 2002
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)
Mixed results in health report

More than 80% of Australians aged 15 years and over considered their health to be good, very good, or excellent according to results from the 2001 National Health Survey released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today. Almost 90% assessed their health as being better or about the same as one year ago.

Compared with 1989-90, Australian adults showed improved results against the risk factors of smoking and exercise, but levels of obesity and overweight continued to increase. Risky and high risk alcohol use was unchanged.

Main findings on these risk factors were:

Smoking:Approximately one in four adults (24%) were smokers in 2001, down from 25% in 1995 and 28% in 1989-90. Among males decreases in the proportion smoking were mainly in middle and older age groups, while for females the largest decrease was among younger age groups.
Exercise:Although most exercised at relatively low levels, 70% of adults reported that they had done some exercise for recreation, sport or fitness in the two weeks prior to being surveyed. In terms of exercise level (derived from frequency, duration and intensity of exercise undertaken), the proportion of adults exercising at low levels increased from 33% in 1989-90 to 38% in 2001, while the proportion whose exercise level was sedentary (very low or no exercise) fell from 37% in 1989-90 to 32% in 2001. The proportion of adults exercising at moderate and high levels remained steady at approximately 30%.
Alcohol:The majority of adults (71% of males and 52% of females) had consumed alcohol in the week prior to interview, but over 80% of these had consumed alcohol at a level which would constitute a low risk to their health. The proportion of adults who had consumed alcohol at levels which would be risky or a high risk to their health if continued was the same in 2001 as 1989-90 (11%).
Overweight:Some 30% of males and 38% of females assessed themselves as being overweight. However, when body mass index was calculated from reported height and weight, 58% of males and 42% of females were classified in the overweight or obese groups. For both males and females the proportions classified as overweight or obese were highest in the middle age groups, with 68% of males and 59% of females aged 55 to 64 years being overweight or obese.

The proportion of adult males classified as overweight or obese increased from 46% in 1989-90 to 52% in 1995 to 58% in 2001. A higher proportionate increase was recorded for females, from 32% in 1989-90 to 37% in 1995 to 42% in 2001.

Other findings from the survey include:

In 2001, 78% of the population reported that they had at least one long-term medical condition, up from 76% in 1995. Among children, respiratory conditions were the most common, with asthma the most prevalent among children aged less than 15 years (13%). Hayfever was the most prevalent long-term condition for young people aged 15 to 24 years (19%).

Sight conditions, arthritis, hearing loss and high blood pressure were the most common conditions in age groups 55 years and over. Arthritis increased from one in three of those aged 55 to 64 years to just over half (52%) of those aged 75 years and over.

Moderate or higher levels of psychological distress were recorded for 36% of the population, up from 26% in 1997.

Some 13% of males and 11% of females reported sustaining an injury in the four weeks prior to interview. The most common cause of injury was low falls (less than 1 metre) which accounted for one-third of people reporting a recent injury.

One in four (24%) people had consulted a doctor in the two weeks prior to interview, and 6% had consulted a dentist. These were similar to proportions reported in 1995.

Approximately 14% of employed people had taken one or more days away from work in the two weeks before being surveyed due to their own illness, or to care for another who was ill. This accounted for over 3.7 million days lost from work in a two week period.

Just over half (51%) of people aged 15 years and over had private health insurance with 73% of those having both hospital and ancillary cover. The most common reason for not having private health insurance was "can't afford it/too expensive", reported by 59% of those without private cover.

Immunisation cover for children has increased overall since 1995. In 2001, over 70% of children aged 0 to 6 years were fully immunised for diphtheria/tetanus, whooping cough and hib (haemophilus influenzae type b), and over 80% were fully immunised for poliomyelitis and measles, mumps and rubella.

Over three-quarters (78%) of women reported that they have regular breast examinations of some kind, and 60% have regular Pap tests.

Among females aged 18 to 24 years 13% were classified as being underweight, based on self-reported height and weight.

One in five (19%) of women aged 40 years and over reported that they were currently using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) prescribed by a doctor. Over half (56%) of those women reported using HRT for 5 years or more and 34% had used it for 10 years or more.

Further details are in National Health Survey: Summary of Results, Australia 2001 (cat. no. 4364.0).