National Health Survey - Frequently Asked Questions

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About this survey
About this survey

I've been chosen to be in the National Health Survey – what is this?
This is an important national survey that collects information about the health and wellbeing of people in Australia, including the prevalence of long-term health conditions, health risk factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, diet and physical activity; and demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

How is the information from this survey used and why is it important?
The results are used by government agencies, researchers, academics, clinicians and other health professionals in your community to:

    • put in place health programs to inform the public about better lifestyle and health choices;
    • stimulate and support research into helping Australians live longer and healthier lives;
    • make sure health services and programs are available to those in need; and
    • assess current policies to help prevent illness.

The National Health Survey has been providing our community with vital information for measuring the health and wellbeing of people in Australia since 1977. By taking part, you can ensure that your health experiences and circumstances become part of the story of life in Australia today. The information you provide will contribute to important decisions being made for your local area and the wider Australian community.

Why was my household selected?
Each year, we collect data about all aspects of life from thousands of households and businesses throughout Australia in order to better understand our population and future needs. Households from every state and territory are selected at random to participate in this survey.

Rather than survey the whole population, we use a scientific sampling process designed to collect data which builds a picture that includes people from all areas of Australia. Everyone has a chance of being selected for this important national survey.

Once a household has been selected, another household cannot be substituted in its place, as changing the random selection could mean some parts of the community are under or over represented.

It is important that all selected households complete the survey in order to make sure the results represent the whole community. This means that decisions made about services provided by government, local councils and community groups are made using the most accurate information.

Who in my household will be required to participate?
For the first part of this survey, one household representative will be asked for general information about everyone in the household.

For the second part of the survey, we will randomly select one adult and one child (if there are any) to answer questions about their health and lifestyle. We need to randomly select the person (rather than you choosing them) because we need a range of people with a range of characteristics. Each selected person in the survey represents similar people in their local area.

How do I complete the survey?
Given the recent spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) we ask that all households selected complete the survey online.

If you are unable to respond online, please call us on 1800 304 488 to discuss your participation in the survey. For more information about the ABS response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) you can visit our Information for Survey Participants page by clicking here.

To respond online please follow the instructions in the letter that we sent you. This includes step-by-step instructions for you to create your ABS Survey Account and start your survey online.

If you are having trouble accessing your form, completing the survey or have lost your Form Access Code, please call us on 1800 304 488 and an ABS officer will be happy to assist you.

If we don’t hear from you, an interviewer may visit your address to conduct the survey with you once it is safe to do so.

Is the survey compulsory?
Ultimately, yes. The Australian Bureau of Statistics is conducting this survey under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905, which has provisions to make surveys compulsory.

Obtaining information from all households selected in the survey is the only way we can get a complete and accurate picture of the nation. Government, local councils, businesses, charities, academics and others rely on our statistics to make decisions and plan for the future. Your participation ensures that your circumstances are considered in these important decisions.

If the Australian Statistician directs you in writing to provide the information, you are legally obliged to comply. If you continue to refuse to participate in the survey after you have been directed, you could be prosecuted under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 and if convicted fines may apply.

The answers you provide will be treated confidentially. The ABS is required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905 to maintain the secrecy of all information provided to it. No information will be released in a way that would enable an individual or household to be identified.

What kinds of questions will you ask?
This survey collects general information about everyone in the household and includes questions about age, country of birth, education, employment and relationships within the household.

The survey then asks one randomly selected adult and one randomly selected child (if there are any children) a range of questions about health service use, disability, carer responsibility, lifestyle factors, mental wellbeing and long-term health conditions.

We may contact you in the future to collect some additional information, including your height, weight, waist and blood pressure. We will only visit you to collect more information once social distancing restrictions have been eased and it is safe to do so.

How do I know the person contacting me is from the ABS?
If your household has been selected to participate in this survey, you will have received letters informing you about your selection.

You may receive calls from numbers that you are not familiar with including mobile phones or “unknown” numbers. This is because many of our Interviewers are teleworkers and use ABS authorised mobile phones and office phones, connected to our highly secure networks, to contact and arrange and discuss your participation in the survey.

Remember – The ABS will NEVER ask you to provide or confirm your bank details.

If you are concerned, call us on 1800 304 488 and we will confirm your selection in the survey and the identity of the staff member who is contacting you.

What happens if there are people in my household who don't speak English?
Where possible, we can arrange for an ABS interviewer who is fluent in the language of the householder to conduct the survey when it is safe to do so. If there is someone in the household who can translate, and the respondent agrees, they can help the interviewer.

Will I be paid for my time?
No. There is no provision within the Census and Statistics Act 1905 to reimburse people for the cost of providing statistical information. In line with other national statistical organisations throughout the world, individuals, businesses and other organisations are asked to supply information for statistical purposes without compensation. It is only with the support of people like you that we can continue to produce the statistics that inform Australia's important decisions.

How will you keep my information safe, secure and confidential?
We take the security of the information you provide to us very seriously. Your information remains strictly confidential to the ABS and is not shared with other agencies. We use the information you provide to calculate statistics, which are released in ways that do not allow for the identification of individuals or households.

All ABS employees have signed a legally enforceable Undertaking of Fidelity and Security in which they agree to keep any information, including personal information which they may deal with in the course of their work, private and confidential. This agreement applies to ABS employees for the rest of their lives, even if they leave the ABS. The penalty for breaching this is two years imprisonment, a $26,640 fine, or both.

We comply with the Australian Privacy Principles. If you believe we have breached these principles, please see the information on how to lodge a complaint about privacy matters, contained within our privacy policy.

Will the information I provide be combined with other data?
The information you provide will be combined with the information from other respondents to produce vital statistics about Australian households.

We often combine data from two or more sources because combining data helps fill the gaps — and saves you time. Combining data helps provide a clearer picture of Australia than what can be achieved by any one survey alone, and creates new insights about our society and the economy. By reusing existing data, we reduce the need for Australian households and businesses to provide more information.

Governments, researchers and community groups will use this vital data to better understand the health and wellbeing of people in Australia. This helps to inform health programs, assess current policies, and to plan for the future.

How can I provide feedback about my experience in the National Health Survey?
If you have participated in this survey, or any of our other surveys, we want to hear about your experience. We value your feedback and will use it to improve how we work with our survey participants.

You can use our feedback form to provide us with feedback. For this survey, please select the option "Participation in an ABS Household Survey".

I'm having trouble completing the survey online – where can I find help?
Please see our Survey Account Help page for assistance with technical difficulties, as well as answers to frequently asked questions on creating and using an ABS Survey Account.

You can also call us on 1800 304 488 and one of our team will be happy to assist you.

Who can I contact for more information?
For help or more information about this survey, please call us on 1800 304 488 Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm AEST. For help outside these hours, please leave a message with your contact details and we will return your call as soon as possible.