Web update: Health risk factors in 2014–15 - Technical Note - Health risk factors in 2014–15

Web update: Health risk factors in 2014–15

Health risk factors in 2014–15

This technical note accompanies the Web update: Health risk factors in 2014–15

The release includes the following measures:

  • Percentage of adults who have high blood pressure (and uncontrolled high blood pressure)
  • Percentage of adults who perform insufficient physical activity
  • Percentage of adults who consume more than two standard drinks per day on average.

These measures relate to the Performance Accountability Framework indicator 6.3.5 Population health outcome measures, included in Healthy Communities reports to provide context for the interpretation of local area performance indicators.

Further details are available in the indicator specification tables in the Indicator specification section.

About the data source

The web update contains results from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Health Survey (NHS) 2014–15, collected between July 2014 and June 2015.

The 2014–15 NHS is the most recent in a series of Australia-wide health surveys conducted by the ABS. It 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 exercise
  • use of health services such as consultations with health practitioners and actions people have recently taken for their health
  • demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

The 2014–15 NHS collected data on children and adults living in private dwellings but excluded persons living in non-private dwellings, very remote areas and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

For further information, refer to the ABS National Health Survey: First Results, 2014–151, and the National Health Survey: Users’ Guide, 2014–15: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4363.0Main+Features12014-15?OpenDocumentExternal link, opens in a new window..

About the measures

High blood pressure

This measure includes details of a person’s high blood pressure and uncontrolled high blood pressure. The World Health Organization2 defines high blood pressure as including any of the following:

  • systolic blood pressure greater than or equal to 140 mmHg, or;
  • diastolic blood pressure greater than or equal to 90 mmHg, or;
  • receiving medication for high blood pressure.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is defined as:

  • measured systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or more, or
  • diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or more,
  • irrespective of whether they were taking medication for high blood pressure.

Note: In 2014–15, 24.3% of respondents aged 18 years and over did not have their blood pressure measured. For these respondents, imputation was used to obtain blood pressure.

Insufficient physical activity

This measure includes details of a person’s physical activity, including walking undertaken for transport, fitness, recreation or sport, and moderate and vigorous exercise (excluding household chores, gardening and yardwork).

Insufficient physical activity for adults was determined if physical activity did not meet the Australian Government Department of Health’s Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines3.

For adults aged 18–64 years, this includes each week:

  • 150–300 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75–150 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both, and
  • muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days.

Adults aged 65 years and over are recommended to accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days.

Lifetime risky alcohol consumption

This measure includes details of a person’s lifetime risky alcohol consumption. Lifetime risky alcohol consumption was determined if alcohol consumption exceeded the 2009 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines for reducing health risks associated with alcohol consumption4.

The guidelines recommend that healthy men and women drink no more than 2 standard drinks of alcohol per day on average, to reduce their lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.

Presentation of results


Primary Health Networks (PHNs) are local organisations that connect health services across a specific geographic area, with the boundaries defined by the Australian Government Department of Health5.

In the report, a PHN area refers to the population that lives in the geographic area covered by a particular PHN. The results in this report relate to the period before PHNs were established; therefore, the findings do not reflect the performance of PHNs.

Metropolitan and regional PHN areas

PHN area boundaries align well with the ABS remoteness category of major cities6. A PHN area was categorised as a metropolitan PHN area if at least 85% of the population was in the major cities category. All other PHN areas were categorised as regional PHN areas. See Table 1 for the metropolitan or regional classification of each PHN area.


The quality of estimates from the NHS can vary across PHN areas, as the survey was not specifically designed to produce estimates at this level of geography. To ensure robust reporting of these data by PHN areas, suppression or interpret with caution rules were developed and applied by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Estimates of a percentage or its complement that had a relative standard error greater than 50% were suppressed. These estimates were considered unreliable for most practical purposes.

Data for PHN areas were suppressed if there was the likelihood of a non-representative sample, that is, where the survey sample count in the PHN area was less than 20% of the expected number of adults.

The ‘interpret with caution’ flag was applied to the data if the relative standard error associated with the percentage or its complement was greater than 25%. This indicates the proportion derived is subject to high sampling error and should be used with caution.

Data for the Northern Territory should be interpreted with caution as the National Health Survey excluded discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and very remote areas, which comprise around 28% of the estimated resident population of the Northern Territory living in private dwellings.

Comparability across PHN areas

The results presented in this web update are crude rates, rather than age-standardised rates. Age-standardisation is a technique to adjust for differences in age structures between populations to ensure fairer comparisons. It is used when the prevalence of a condition is known to vary with age, for example, to increase among older populations.

The health risks factors reported in this web update are known to vary with age and the different PHN area populations are known to have a range of age structures.

As such, comparisons of results between the PHN areas should be made with caution because the crude rates presented in the fact sheets do not account for these age differences.

Table 1: Metropolitan and regional Primary Health Network areas

Primary Health Network area Proportion of the population* in major cities
Metropolitan Primary Health Network areas
Central and Eastern Sydney 100%
Australian Capital Territory 100%
Western Sydney 99%
Northern Sydney 99%
Adelaide 99%
South Eastern Melbourne 98%
Gold Coast (Qld) 98%
Perth South 98%
Perth North 98%
North Western Melbourne 96%
Eastern Melbourne 96%
Brisbane South 96%
Brisbane North 95%
South Western Sydney 90%
Nepean Blue Mountains (NSW) 85%
Regional Primary Health Network areas
Hunter New England and Central Coast (NSW) 64%
South Eastern NSW 53%
Darling Downs and West Moreton (Qld) 34%
Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast 31%
Western Victoria 30%
North Coast (NSW) 14%
Country SA 10%
Western NSW 0%
Murrumbidgee (NSW) 0%
Gippsland (Vic) 0%
Murray (Vic, NSW) 0%
Western Queensland 0%
Northern Queensland 0%
Country WA 0%
Tasmania 0%
Northern Territory 0%
ABS Estimated Resident Population at 30 June 2013
Major cities – as defined by the ABS Australian Statistical Geography Standard Remoteness Areas

1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). 2015. National Health Survey: First Results, 2014–15; ABS Cat. No. 4364.0.55.001. Viewed 15 September 2017 http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/PrimaryMainFeatures/4364.0.55.001?OpenDocumentExternal link, opens in a new window.

2. Whitworth JA 2003. 2003 World Health Organization/International Society of Hypertension statement on management of hypertension. Journal of Hypertension 21:1983-92. Viewed 18 September 2017 http://www.who.int/cardiovascular_diseases/guidelines/hypertension_guidelines.pdfExternal link, opens in a new window.

3. Australian Government Department of Health. 2014. The Department of Health: Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. Viewed 18 September 2017 http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelinesExternal link, opens in a new window.

4. Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). 2017. Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol. Viewed 19 September 2017 https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/ds10-alcohol.pdfExternal link, opens in a new window.

5. Australian Government Department of Health. 2016. Primary Health Networks (PHNs). Viewed 18 September 2017 http://www.health.gov.au/PHNExternal link, opens in a new window.

6. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). 2016. Australian Statistical Geography Standard: Volume 5–Remoteness Structure, July 2011; ABS Cat. no. 1270.0.55.005. Viewed 15 September 2017 http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/1270.0.55.005?OpenDocumentExternal link, opens in a new window.