The 2020-21 National Health Survey (NHS) was conducted from August 2020 to June 2021. Data was collected from approximately 11,000 households around Australia.
The survey focused on the health status of Australians and health-related aspects of their lifestyles. Information was collected about respondents' long-term health conditions and on lifestyle factors which may affect health, such as tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, fruit and vegetable consumption, sugar sweetened and diet drink consumption, and physical activity. Self-reported health status, height, weight, body mass, and use of health services were also collected.
Several topics were included for the first time in 2020-21 including e-cigarettes/vaping, food security and stressors. The topics of food security and stressors were introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The survey also collected a standard set of information about respondents including age, sex, country of birth, main language, employment, education, and income.
Impact of COVID-19 on survey estimates
The 2020-21 NHS data should be considered a break in time series from previous NHS collections and used for point-in-time national analysis only. The survey was collected during the COVID-19 pandemic which significantly changed the data collection. To maintain the safety of survey respondents and ABS Interviewers, it was collected via an online, self-complete form. Non-response is usually reduced through Interviewer follow up of households who have not responded. As this was not possible, there were lower response rates than previous NHS cycles, which impacted sample representativeness for some sub-populations. Comparisons to previous health data over time are not possible.
In addition to the changes resulting from the pandemic and data collection via an online form, there were a number of other changes made to the 2020-21 NHS. This survey had a planned change to sample design and only nationally representative estimates are available – State and Territory estimates have not been produced. There have also been various changes to content, question modules, instrument design and output data items as detailed in Summary of content changes. This includes the exclusion of medications data being collected directly from respondents and a revision to the classification of long-term health conditions (refer to Health conditions for more details). Information on people’s medication usage will be provided via Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) data linkage at a later stage.