The National Health Survey 2020-21 was collected online during the COVID-19 pandemic and is a break in time series. Data should be used for point-in-time analysis only and can’t be compared to previous years. See Methodology for more information.
Health Conditions Prevalence
Key findings on selected long-term health conditions and prevalence in Australia
- Over three quarters (78.6%) of Australians had at least one long-term health condition in 2020-21
- Nearly half had at least one chronic condition (46.6% or 11.6 million)
- Mental and behavioural conditions (20.1%), Back problems (15.7%) and Arthritis (12.5%) were the most common chronic conditions
Health influences, and is influenced by, how we feel and how we interact with the world around us. Health is broader than just the presence or absence of disease, it reflects the complex interactions of an individual’s genetics, lifestyle and environment. In 2020-21 more than half (56.6%) of people aged 15 years and over considered themselves to be in excellent or very good health, while 13.8% considered their health to be fair or poor.
Long-term health conditions are conditions which were current at the time of the survey interview and had lasted, or were expected to last, 6 months or more. Selected chronic conditions are a subset of long-term health conditions that are common, pose significant health problems, and have been a focus of ongoing public health surveillance.
Selected chronic conditions includes 10 chronic condition groups:
- Back pain
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Kidney disease
- Mental health conditions, and
Nearly half of Australians of all ages (46.6%) had one or more chronic condition, and almost one in five (18.6%) had two or more chronic conditions. Almost half (49.0%) of all females had one or more chronic conditions, and one in five (20.7%) had two or more. Similarly, 43.9% of males had one or more chronic conditions and 16.4% had two or more.
Overall, women aged 18 years and over were more likely than men to have one or more chronic conditions (56.5% compared to 49.5%).
The most prevalent chronic conditions experienced in Australia in 2020-21 were:
- Mental and behavioural conditions – 20.1%
- Back problems – 15.7%
- Arthritis – 12.5%
- Asthma – 10.7%
- Diabetes – 5.3%, comprised of Type 1 diabetes (0.6%) and Type 2 diabetes (4.5%)
- Heart, stroke and vascular disease – 4.0%
- Osteoporosis – 3.6%
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – 1.5%
- Cancer – 1.6%
- Kidney disease – 1.1%.
Many people with chronic conditions have more than one condition at the same time (multimorbidity). For example, in 2020-21 of those who had COPD, nine in ten (91.3%) had another condition. The prevalence of multimorbidity varied across chronic conditions:
- COPD – 91.3%
- Heart, stroke and vascular disease – 82.7%
- Kidney disease – 77.8%
- Cancer – 75.0%
- Osteoporosis – 73.9%
- Diabetes – 71.0%
- Arthritis – 70.7%
- Back problems – 64.4%
- Asthma – 57.9%
- Mental and behavioural problems – 49.5%.
The prevalence of chronic conditions and multimorbidity was more common with age.
Half (50.4%) of people of all ages who lived in areas of most disadvantage had one or more chronic conditions, and one in four (24.9%) had two or more. For people who lived in areas of least disadvantage, two in five (41.4%) had one or more chronic conditions and one in eight (12.8%) had two or more.
(a) A lower index of Disadvantage quintile (e.g. the first quintile) indicates relatively greater disadvantage and a lack of advantage in general. A higher Index of Disadvantage (e.g. the fifth quintile) indicates a relative lack of disadvantage and greater advantage in general. See Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), Australia, 2016 (abs.gov.au).
Mental and behavioural conditions
Mental health is a key component of overall health and wellbeing. A mental illness can be defined as ‘a clinically diagnosable disorder that significantly interferes with a person’s cognitive, emotional or social abilities’. The term itself covers a range of illnesses including anxiety disorders, affective disorders, psychotic disorders and substance use disorders.
A person does not need to meet the criteria for a mental illness or mental disorder to be negatively affected by their mental health. Mental health affects and is affected by multiple socioeconomic factors, including a person’s access to services, living conditions and employment status, and affects not only the individual but also their families and carers. In 2020-21:
- One in five (20.1% or 5.0 million) people of all ages experienced a mental or behavioural condition
- Females were more likely than males to have reported a mental or behavioural condition (22.8% compared to 17.3%).
- People aged 15-24 years and 25-34 years had higher rates of mental or behavioural conditions (27.5% and 25.3% respectively) than people aged 55-64 years (18.9%), 65-74 years (15.8%) and 75 years and over (15.7%)
- The most common mental or behavioural conditions were anxiety (12.7%) and depression (10.1%)
- Females were more likely than males to have anxiety (15.7% compared to 9.4%) or depression (12.3% compared to 7.8%).
Arthritis and Osteoporosis
Arthritis refers to a range of musculoskeletal conditions where a person's joints become inflamed, which may result in pain, stiffness, disability, or deformity. In 2020-21:
- One in eight (12.5%) people of all ages had arthritis
- Rates of arthritis increased with age, particularly for females
- People living in areas of most disadvantage were more likely than those living in areas of least disadvantage to have arthritis (15.3% compared to 9.5%).
Of people aged 18 years and over with arthritis, 93.9% experienced bodily pain in the four weeks prior to interview. More than one in three (36.0%) people aged 18 years and over with arthritis experienced moderate bodily pain and 17.7% experienced severe or very severe pain in the four weeks prior to interview.
(a) This proportion has a high margin of error and should be used with caution.
Osteoporosis is a condition where a person’s bones become fragile and brittle, with an increased risk of fractures. Osteoporosis can be managed with medications and lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise and stopping smoking.
In 2020-21, 889,400 (3.6%) people of all ages had osteoporosis, with females being more likely than males (5.9% compared with 1.1%) to be diagnosed.
- Osteoporosis was more common in older age groups, increasing from 5.6% of people aged 55-64 years to 20.1% of people aged 75 years and over
- Nine in ten (90.3%) people aged 18 years and over with osteoporosis experienced bodily pain in the four weeks prior to interview
- One in three (33.8%) people aged 18 years and over with osteoporosis experienced moderate bodily pain, while 13.7% experienced severe or very severe pain.
Asthma is a lung condition caused by narrowing of the airways when they become inflamed. People with asthma experience difficulty breathing and the most common symptoms are wheezing, coughing, breathlessness and chest tightness.
Just under 2.7 million (10.7%) Australians had asthma. Females were more likely than males to have asthma (12.0% compared to 9.4%).
See Asthma for further information.
Diabetes is a chronic condition where the body cannot produce enough insulin, a hormone essential for converting glucose into energy.
One in twenty (5.3% or 1.3 million) people had diabetes, with Type 2 diabetes most common. The rate of diabetes increased with age.
See Diabetes for further information.
Heart, stroke and vascular disease
Heart, stroke and vascular disease encompasses a range of circulatory conditions including:
- Ischaemic heart diseases (angina, heart attack and other ischaemic heart diseases)
- Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases)
- Heart failure
- Diseases of the arteries, arterioles and capillaries.
This group of conditions is commonly referred to under the broader term of ‘heart disease’ or cardiovascular disease. In 2020, ischaemic heart diseases were the leading cause of death (followed by dementia) while cerebrovascular diseases (including stroke) were the third leading cause of death. In 2020-21:
- The rate of heart disease was 4.0%, representing 1.0 million people
- Heart disease was more common in males than females (4.9% compared to 3.1%)
- Heart disease increased with age, from 2.3% of people aged 45-54 years through to 23.2% of people aged 75 years and over
- Males aged 65-74 years were more than twice as likely as females to have heart disease (17.4% compared to 7.6%)
- Similarly, males aged 75 years and over were almost twice as likely as females to have heart disease (31.4% compared to 15.9%).
- Males were more than twice as likely as females to have had a heart attack or other ischaemic heart disease (2.1% compared to 0.8%)
- Almost one in fourteen (6.7%) people had hypertension
- Hypertension rates increased with age, with more than one in four (27.4%) people aged 75 years and over reporting they had hypertension.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) covers a range of conditions including emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma. The condition causes narrowing of the bronchial tubes in the lungs (sometimes called bronchi or airways) which makes breathing difficult.
In 2020-21, 375,800 people (1.5%) of all ages had COPD.
- Females were more likely than males to have COPD (2.0% compared to 0.9%)
- COPD was more common in older age groups, with 5.2% of people aged 75 years and over having COPD
- Almost one in five (19.8%) people aged 18 years and over with COPD experienced severe or very severe bodily pain in the four weeks prior to interview.
Cancer is a condition in which the body's cells grow and spread in an uncontrolled manner. A cancerous cell can arise from almost any cell, and therefore cancer can be found almost anywhere in the body.
Cancer was the leading cause of total burden of disease in 2018, accounting for 18% of the total disease burden. During 2020, there was a reduction in cancer related diagnostic procedures and therapeutic procedures. This may have contributed to delayed diagnosis and management of cancer in Australians.
This analysis focuses on cancer expected to last for six months or more – including non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)).
In 2020-21, 410,900 (1.6%) people of all ages had cancer.
- Males were twice as likely as females to have cancer (2.2% compared with 1.1%)
- People aged 65 years and over were more likely than any other age group to have cancer (5.6%).
More than one in four (26.5%) people aged 18 years and over with cancer experienced moderate bodily pain in the four weeks prior to interview, while 18.3% experienced severe or very severe bodily pain.
(a) This proportion has a high margin of error and should be used with caution.
Kidney disease is a chronic condition in which a person's kidney function is reduced or damaged. The kidney’s main task is to clean blood and filter waste out through urine. When kidneys aren't functioning as they should, waste gradually builds up in a persons' body, and this can have a devastating impact on their health. This condition is called kidney disease - the loss of normal kidney function over time. It can also be called kidney failure, which is the end-stage of kidney disease. Kidney disease is also often associated with other chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. People aged 75 years and over experience high fatal burden from chronic kidney disease.
In 2020-21, 1.1% of Australians of all ages (264,900 people) had kidney disease.
- Rates for males and females were similar (1.1% and 1.0%)
- Rates of kidney disease increased from 65-74 years to 75 years and over (2.6% compared to 5.0%).
Other long-term health conditions
Some long-term health conditions may not be considered chronic but can impact daily life. More than three quarters (78.6%) of Australians had at least one long-term health condition. Common long-term conditions in 2020-21 outside of chronic conditions included:
- Over one quarter (25.6%) of people were short sighted, while around one in five (21.9%) were long sighted
- One in five (20.3%) people experienced hayfever or allergic rhinitis
- More than one in ten (11.2%) people had an allergy, with 6.1% reporting food allergies
- One in twelve (8.7%) people had a hearing impairment (partial or complete deafness)
- About one in fifteen (6.4%) people experienced severe or very severe bodily pain in the 4 weeks prior to interview.
Health conditions prevalence
TABLE 1 Summary health characteristics by age and sex.xlsx
TABLE 2 Long-term health conditions by age and sex.xlsx
TABLE 3 Selected long-term health conditions by population characteristics.xlsx
TABLE 4 Selected long-term health conditions by health risk factors and health status.xlsx
TABLE 5 Health risk factors by population characteristics.xlsx
TABLE 6 Smoking by age and sex.xlsx
TABLE 7 Alcohol by age and sex.xlsx
TABLE 8 Physical activity by age and sex.xlsx
TABLE 9 Consumption of fruit, vegetables, and sugar sweetened and diet drinks.xlsx
TABLE 10 Childrens consumption of fruit, vegetables, and sugar sweetened and diet drinks.xlsx
TABLE 11 Breastfeeding by age.xlsx
TABLE 12 Number of chronic conditions by population characteristics and comorbidity.xlsx
TABLE 13 Stressors by age and sex and selected characteristics.xlsx
TABLE 14 Bodily pain by age and sex.xlsx
TABLE 15 Health service usage and type of health professional consulted by age and sex.xlsx
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘Australia’s health 2020 data insights’, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/australias-health-2020-data-insights/summary; accessed 28/02/2022.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘Chronic conditions and multimorbidity’, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/chronic-conditions-and-multimorbidity; accessed 26/05/2022.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘Mental health’, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/mental-health; accessed 01/03/2022.
- Health Direct, ‘Osteoporosis’, https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/osteoporosis; accessed 18/02/2022.
- Department of Health, ‘What we’re doing about lung and respiratory conditions’, https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/chronic-conditions/what-were-doing-about-chronic-conditions/what-were-doing-about-lung-and-respiratory-conditions?utm_source=health.gov.au&utm_medium=callout-auto-custom&utm_campaign=digital_transformation; accessed 09/02/2022.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘Causes of Death, Australia, 2020’, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/causes-death/causes-death-australia/latest-release#australia-s-leading-causes-of-death-2020; accessed 16/02/2022.
- Lung Foundation, ‘Overview – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease’, https://lungfoundation.com.au/patients-carers/living-with-a-lung-disease/copd/overview/; accessed 01/02/2022.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 'Cancer overview', https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/health-conditions-disability-deaths/cancer/overview; accessed 17/03/2022.
- Cancer Australia, ‘The impact of COVID-19 on cancer-related medical services and procedures in Australia in 2020’, https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/sites/default/files/publications/impact-covid-19-cancer-related-medical-services-and-procedures-australia-2020-examination-mbs-claims/pdf/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-cancer-services-in-australia-in-2020.pdf; accessed 16/02/2022.
- Kidney Health Australia, 'What is kidney disease?', https://kidney.org.au/your-kidneys/what-is-kidney-disease; accessed 17/03/2022.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2018’, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/burden-of-disease/abds-impact-and-causes-of-illness-and-death-in-aus/summary; accessed 21/02/2022.
Previous catalogue number
This release previously used catalogue number 4364.0.55.001.
Post release changes
21/07/2022 – This release contains:
Data revision to ‘Family composition of household’ in table 3.
Data revision to 'Did not meet 2014 physical activity guidelines’, ‘Zero minutes of physical activity’, ‘Did not meet 2014 physical activity guidelines excluding workplace activity’, ‘Migrant status’, and ‘Family composition of household’ in table 5.
Data revision to ‘Family composition of household’ in table 15.
17/06/2022 – This release contains:
Additional content on selected population characteristics added to Chronic conditions.
Additional data cubes in the data downloads (tables 9–15). This includes information on dietary behaviours (tables 9 and 10), breastfeeding (table 11), the number of chronic conditions and comorbidity of selected chronic conditions (table 12), experience of stressors and bodily pain (tables 13 and 14), and health service use (table 15).
Correction to a footnote in table 1.
Data revision to ‘Usual sugar drink consumption’, ‘Usual diet drink consumption’, and ‘Does not usually consume sugar sweetened or diet drinks’ in table 4.
Data revision to ‘Daily consumption of diet drinks’, ‘Does not usually consume sugar sweetened or diet drinks’, ‘Inadequate vegetable consumption’, and ‘Zero minutes of physical activity excluding workplace’ in table 5.