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National Health Survey: First results

Presents key findings for health statistics including long-term health conditions; mental wellbeing; and health risk factors

Reference period
2017-18 financial year

Key statistics

  • 67% of adults were overweight or obese.
  • 47% of Australians had one or more chronic conditions.
  • Young people aged 18-24 are more likely to have never smoked than a decade ago (75% compared to 64%).
  • 4.8 million Australians had a mental or behavioural condition.

Integration of the 2017-18 National Health Survey and the Personal Linkage Spine Article Now Avaliable

This article describes the scope, coverage and quality of the 2017-18 NHS linking dataset. It also outlines linking methodology and results.

Integration of the 2017-18 National Health Survey and the Personal Linkage Spine Article

General health

  • In 2017-18, over half (56.4%) of Australians aged 15 years and over considered themselves to be in excellent or very good health, while 14.7% reported being in fair or poor health. This has remained constant over the last 10 years. 
  • Around one in eight (13.0% or 2.4 million) adults experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress, an increase from 2014-15 (11.7% or 2.1 million).

Chronic conditions

Just under half (47.3%) of Australians had one or more chronic conditions in 2017-18, an increase from 2007-08 when two-fifths (42.2%) of people had one or more chronic conditions.

Chronic health conditions experienced in Australia in 2017-18 were: 

  • Mental and behavioural conditions - 4.8 million people (20.1%) 
  • Back problems - 4.0 million people (16.4%) 
  • Arthritis - 3.6 million people (15.0%) 
  • Asthma - 2.7 million people (11.2%) 
  • Diabetes mellitus- 1.2 million people (4.9%) comprising Type 1 Diabetes - 144,800 people (0.6%) and Type 2 Diabetes - 998,100 people (4.1%) 
  • Heart, stroke and vascular disease - 1.2 million people (4.8%) 
  • Osteoporosis - 924,000 people (3.8%) 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - 598,800 people (2.5%) 
  • Cancer - 432,400 people (1.8%) 
  • Kidney disease - 237,800 people (1.0%)

Mental and behavioural conditions

  • In 2017-18, one in five (20.1%) or 4.8 million Australians had a mental or behavioural condition, an increase from 4.0 million Australians (17.5%) in 2014-15. 
  • In 2017-18, 3.2 million Australians (13.1%) had an anxiety-related condition, an increase from 11.2% in 2014-15. 
  • One in ten people (10.4%) had depression or feelings of depression, an increase from 8.9% in 2014-15.

Health risk factors

Smoking

  • Since 1995, the proportion of adults who are daily smokers has decreased from 23.8% to 13.8% in 2017-18. Over recent years however, the daily smoking rate remained relatively similar (14.5% in 2014-15). 
  • The proportion of adults who have never smoked has increased from 49.4% in 2007-08 to 52.6% in 2014-15 and 55.7% in 2017-18. 
  • Three in four (75.3%) young adults (18-24 year olds) have never smoked, up from 69.5% in 2014-15. 
  • Men continued to be more likely than women to smoke daily (16.5% compared to 11.1%). 
  • Rates for both men and women have declined since 1995 when 27.3% of men and 20.3% of women smoked daily. However, these rates have remained similar since 2014-15 (16.9% for men and 12.1% for women). 
  • On average, current daily smokers smoked 12.3 cigarettes per day, which is just over half a pack (a pack is considered to be 20 cigarettes). On average, men smoked more than women (13.0 cigarettes compared with 11.4). 
  • Northern Territory had the highest rate of daily smokers (around one in five; 19.6%) compared with one in ten (10.6%) in Australian Capital Territory.
     

Overweight and obesity

  • In 2017-18, two thirds (67.0%) of Australian adults were overweight or obese (12.5 million people), an increase from 63.4% in 2014-15. 
  • This change was driven by the increase in the proportion of adults categorised as obese, which increased from 27.9% to 31.3% 
  • There was a large increase for those aged 18-24 years, with 38.9% overweight or obese in 2014-15 compared with 46.0% in 2017-18. 
  • In 2017-18, a greater proportion of men aged 18 years and over were overweight or obese than women (74.5% and 59.7% respectively). 
  • Almost one quarter (24.9%) of children aged 5-17 years were overweight or obese in 2017-18 (17% overweight and 8.1% obese). The rates were similar for boys and girls and this has remained stable over the previous ten years.
     

Alcohol consumption[1]

  • One in six (16.1%) persons aged 18 years and over consumed more than two standard drinks per day on average, exceeding the lifetime risk guideline in 2017-18. This continued to decline from 17.4% in 2014-15 and 19.5% in 2011-12. More than one in five (23.7%) men and around one in eleven women (8.8%) exceeded the lifetime risk guideline in 2017-18. Whilst men were more likely than women to exceed the guideline, the proportion of men exceeding declined since 2014-15 (25.8%) whilst for women the rate remains largely unchanged (9.3%) 
  • Just over two in five (42.1%) adults aged 18 years and over, consumed more than four standard drinks on one occasion in the past year, exceeding the single occasion risk guideline which is a decrease from 44.0% in 2014-15. 
  • Men were more likely to exceed the single occasion risk guideline than women, with 54.2% and 30.5% consuming more than four standard drinks respectively. However the proportion of men exceeding the guideline continued to decline from 56.8% in 2014-15, whilst for women the proportion remained constant (31.7% in 2014-15).
     

High blood pressure

  • In 2017-18, just over one in five (22.8% or 4.3 million people) Australians aged 18 years and over had a measured high blood pressure reading. This has remained unchanged since 2014-15 (23.0%).
     

Fruit and vegetable consumption[2]

  • In 2017-18, just over half (51.3%) of Australians aged 18 years and over met the guidelines for the recommended daily serves of fruit (2 or more serves). 
  • One in thirteen (7.5%) adults met the guidelines for serves of vegetables (5-6 or more serves for men depending on age, and 5 or more for women). 
  • Only one in twenty (5.4%) adults met both the fruit and the vegetable recommendations. These rates have remained fairly consistent over time. 
  • One in seventeen (6.0%) children aged 2-17 years met the guidelines for the recommended number of serves of both fruit and vegetables in 2017-18. Over seven in ten (73.0%) children ate the recommended serves of fruit, an increase from 2014-15 (70.1%)
     

Sugar sweetened and diet drink consumption

  • Almost one in eleven (9.1%) adults and one in fourteen (7.1%) children (aged 2-17 years) consume sugar sweetened drinks daily. 
  • Men were almost twice as likely as women to usually consume sugar sweetened drinks daily (11.8% compared with 6.4% respectively). Men who were daily consumers also drink more per day, averaging 3.3 cups (825 ml or 2.2 cans) per day compared with women who consume 2.5 cups per day. 
  • Less people consume diet drinks daily; 4.8% of adults and 1.3% of children. Men (daily consumers) consume on average 3.1 cups per day compared with women who consume 2.6 cups (650 ml) per day. 
  • More than half of adults (52.0%) and children (55.2%) did not consume any sugar sweetened or diet drinks.
     

Physical activity[3]

  • Overall Australians aged 15 years and over exercised 42 minutes per day on average, the largest part of which consisted of walking for transport and walking for exercise (24.6 minutes). 
  • However, only a minority met the physical activity guidelines with 1.9% of 15-17 year olds, 15.0% of 18-64 year olds and 17.2% of 65 year olds and over meeting the 2014 Physical Activity Guidelines in 2017-18. 
  • One in ten (10.3%) 15-17 year olds engaged in 60 minutes of exercise (excluding workplace physical activity) every day and around one in six (15.8%) did strength or toning activities on three or more days in the last week. 
  • More than half (55.4%) of 18-64 years olds undertook 150 minutes or more of exercise in the last week, excluding workplace physical activity and this increased to 65.5% when workplace physical activity was included. 
  • One quarter (24.9%) of 18-64 year olds undertook strength or toning activities on two or more days in the last week. 
  • Just over a quarter (26.1%) of older adults (65 years and over) engaged in 30 minutes of exercise on 5 or more days in the last week. 
  • Adults aged 18-64 years described their day at work as mostly sitting (43.7%), 22.8% described their day as mostly walking, 19.5% as mostly standing and 13.6% as mostly heavy labour or physically demanding work.
     

Data downloads

Table 1: Summary health characteristics, 2001 to 2017-18 - Australia

Table 2: Summary health characteristics, 2017-18 - states and territories

Table 3: Long-term health conditions - Australia

Table 4: Long-term health conditions by population characteristics - Australia

Table 5: Selected current long-term conditions by health risk factors and health status - Australia

Table 6: Health risk factors by population characteristics - Australia

Table 7: Psychological distress - Australia

Table 8: Body Mass Index, waist circumference, height and weight - Australia

Table 9: Smoking - Australia

Table 10: Alcohol consumption - lifetime risk - Australia

Table 11: Alcohol consumption - single occasion risk - Australia

Table 12: Consumption of fruit, vegetables, and sugar sweetened and diet drinks - Australia

Table 13: Physical activity - Australia

Table 14: Measured blood pressure - Australia

Table 15: Self-assessed health status - Australia

Table 16: Children's Body Mass Index, waist circumference, height and weight - Australia

Table 17: Children's consumption of fruit, vegetables, and selected sugar sweetened and diet drinks - Australia

Table 18: Number of selected chronic conditions by population characteristics - Australia

Table 19: Comorbidity of selected chronic conditions - Australia

Table 33: Small area estimates

Released 17/04/2020

Additional data cube with modelled small area estimates for persons with chronic health conditions by age for Statistical Areas Level 2 (SA2) of usual residence have been added.

All data cubes

Survey material

National health survey 2017-18 questionnaire

National health survey 2017-18 prompt cards

About the National Health Survey

The 2017-18 National Health Survey is the most recent in a series of Australia-wide health surveys conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The survey was designed to collect a range of information about the health of Australians, including: 

  • prevalence of long-term health conditions; 
  • health risk factors such as smoking, overweight and obesity, alcohol consumption and physical activity; and 
  • demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. 
     

The survey was conducted in all states and territories and across urban, rural and remote areas of Australia (excluding very remote areas) from July 2017 to June 2018. The survey included around 21,000 people in over 16,000 private dwellings.

Previous surveys were conducted in 1989-90, 1995, 2001, 2004-05, 2007-08, 2011-12 and 2014-15. Health surveys conducted by the ABS in 1977-78 and 1983, while not part of the National Health Survey series, collected similar information.

This publication contains key results from the 2017-18 survey, including long-term health conditions, health risk factors and mental health and well-being. Information is presented for Australia and the states and territories.

Endnotes

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  1. 1 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), 2009. Australian guideline to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol, Canberra: NHMRC https://nhmrc.gov.au/health-advice/alcohol; For more information see Glossary.
  2. National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), 2013. Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council. https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines; For more information see Glossary.
  3. Department of Health, 21 November 2017, The Department of Health: Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines.

History of Changes

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04/12/2020- Integration of the 2017-18 National Health Survey and the Personal Linkage Spine Article describes the scope, coverage and quality of the 2017-18 NHS linking dataset. It also outlines linking methodology and results.

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4364.0.55.001.