Health, lifestyle and living situation

Changes in scores on cognitive ability tasks between 2012 and 2016

In the HILDA Survey in 2012 and 2016, respondents were asked to participate in three tasks during the interview. The three tasks comprised: a task of working memory; a task of divided attention, visual scanning and motor speed; and a word pronunciation task.

The results from 2012 and 2016 were aggregated to analyse if there had been performance change on these tasks, between measurement years. We can see that younger age groups tended to improve their scores on these tasks over the four-year period, whereas older people did not improve their scores.Indeed, for all three tasks, those aged 70 and over in 2012 on average scored lower in 2016 than they had in 2012. Across the three tasks, improvements were more likely to be found for the word pronunciation task, while worsening of performance was most likely for the symbol digits modalities task.

Who holds a driver’s licence?

Holding a driver’s licence can be important to work, family and social participation. For some, not holding a licence can constrain employment opportunities and inhibit many day-to-day activities. In 2012 and 2016, the HILDA Survey asked respondents to identify if they hold a current motor vehicle driver’s licence (including a motorcycle licence).

The data shows us that the rate of licence-holding rises up until we reach the 35 to 44 age group, peaking at around 93% for women and 96% for men. As we move beyond 45 years, the rate of licence-holding declines. Overall, men are more likely than women to hold a licence, although the gap narrowed between 2012 and 2016. In 2012, 84.2% of adult women and 91.4% of adult men held a licence, whereas in 2016, 86.4% of adult women and 91.1% of adult men held a licence.

drivers licence

Health in later life and the family life course

We know that health outcomes are a function of your medical history, but are they also affected by your marital history and whether or not you had children, and by the timing of these events?

The answer from the HILDA Survey data is yes, but more so for men than women. For men, family trajectories characterised by early family formation, no family formation, an early marital disruption, or high fertility are associated with poorer physical health. Among women, only those who experienced both a disrupted marital history and a high level of fertility were found to be in poorer health.

(Source: O'Flaherty M, Baxter J, Turrell G, 2016, The family life course and health: Partnership, fertility histories, and later-life physical health trajectories in Australia, (Journal of) Demography, vol. 53, no. 3, pp. 777-804)

Where are people most active?

In Wave 13, we asked people how much time they had spent over the past week engaged in vigorous physical activities, such as heavy lifting, digging, jogging, aerobics and fast cycling, and in moderate physical activities, such as carrying light loads, gentle swimming, cycling at a moderate pace and social tennis. People were asked to include only activities undertaken for at least 10 minutes at a time.

The figure below shows how the average length of time people were engaged in moderate or vigorous physical activities depends on where people live. It shows people living in Sydney, Melbourne and the ACT have the lowest average activity levels, with all three locations averaging approximately 250 minutes per week of moderate and vigorous activity. People in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Tasmania, the balance of New South Wales (outside Sydney) and the balance of Victoria (outside Melbourne) are somewhat more active, averaging approximately 300 minutes per week. The most active people are found in the Northern Territory (480 minutes), the balance of Western Australia (450 minutes) and the balance of Queensland (390 minutes).

Physical Activity

Health – quantity and quality of sleep

For the first time in 2013, the HILDA survey collected information about the quantity and quality of sleep people get.

It was found that the average number of hours sleep per night is highest for those aged 15-24 with 7.7 hours and lowest for those aged 45-64 with 6.9 hours. Men and women under the age of 65 on average get very similar amounts of sleep with 6.9 hours, but men aged 65 and over appear to average slightly more sleep than women aged 65 and over (7.3 hours and 7.1 hours, respectively).

The self-reported quality of sleep (over the past month) is examined in Figure 1. Irrespective of age, most people report their overall sleep quality as ‘fairly good’, with the next most common response being ‘very good’. Men are more likely than women to report very good or fairly good quality sleep. Having ‘very bad’ or ‘fairly bad’ sleep quality is most common in the 45-64 year age range.

Sleep table

Health – doctor visits

In 2009, the HILDA study asked about doctor visits and found that most people see a doctor at least once a year. Children under 15 and males aged 15-44 are the least likely to see a doctor, approximately three-quarters having seen a doctor in the last 12 months. People over 65 years of age are the most likely to see a doctor, approximately 95 per cent having done so in the last year.

We also asked about whether there was an 'out-of-pocket' expense for the most recent visit to the doctor. People aged 25-64 are most likely to incur an expense, with approximately half having to contribute to the cost of the consultation. The elderly are the least likely to be charged.


Time spent on housework

Traditionally, in married couples, women have carried out most of the housework and men have carried out most of the paid work. For some decades now, however, participation in paid employment by married women has been increasing. One might therefore expect married men's share of the housework to correspondingly increase, and that is indeed the case, as the graph shows. Since 2001, time spent on housework has declined noticeably for married women and increased correspondingly for married men.

Nevertheless, married women still carry out the bulk of the housework. In 2010, the average time spent on housework per week was 18.5 hours for married women and 6.9 hours for married men. Of course there are many factors that may inḀuence the amount of time spent on housework, including not only time spent in paid work, but also time spent on activities such as travelling, education, volunteer work, caring for others and physical exercise.


Internet access at home


Access to the internet is increasingly seen as important to participation in the economic and social life of the community. For the first time in 2010, we asked respondents whether they had access to the internet at home.

It was found that 84 per cent of the Australian population has access to the internet at home; however access varies considerably by age group, ranging from 93 per cent of those aged 15 to 24 down to 38 per cent of those aged 75 and over. There is also variation across regions, with 87 per cent of people living in major urban areas having internet access at home, compared 80 per cent of people living in other regions.

Smoking in Australia

We have a new picture of Australians' smoking patterns, thanks to the HILDA study. For the first time respondents were asked about their smoking, past and present. It means we can see what people do over a lifetime, and compare generations.

The study has shown that smoking is still the single most preventable cause of death and ill-health. And in the indigenous community, smoking is twice as prevalent as in the rest of the population.

In every year since 2002, the HILDA study has collected information on smoking that makes it possible to examine the proportion of the population who smoke daily.

Percentage of people aged 15 years and over who smoke daily

smoking_ graph

There has been a considerable decline in the proportion of people aged 15 years and over who smoke daily between 2002 and 2010.

The proportion of males smoking daily has declined from 21.7% to 17.1% and the proportion of females smoking daily has declined from 16.5% to 13.5%. Closer analysis of the smoking data shows that the biggest declines in smoking rates have occurred for young people, with many fewer taking up smoking than in the past.

Interestingly, we find that there has been very little change in the proportion of people quitting smoking each year. The decline in smoking rates is mostly due to fewer people taking up (or re-taking up) smoking.

Stressful life events

Research has suggested that stressful life events play an important role in the onset of some forms of mental and physical ill health. Some people are better than others in coping with this stress – this might have to do with what type of person they are and how much support they have from the people around them.

life events

Because the Living in Australia study cuts across many aspects of our lives, researchers will have the unique opportunity to study the effect of stressful life events in a wider context than what they have been able to in the past. With each new piece of evidence, the role of our government in assisting people through these stressful times will become clearer.

Do we like where we live?

Most Australians like where they live. When asked to rate the neighbourhood in which they live on a 0 to 10 scale, 70 per cent of respondents to the Living in Australia study provided a rating of 8 or higher. Satisfaction levels were especially high in rural areas, particularly in Victoria and South Australia. Residents of Darwin and Canberra were also particularly satisfied with the neighbourhoods in which they lived.

In 2001, 74 percent of people said they preferred to stay living in the same local area and only 10 percent of people wanted to move. Furthermore, over 77 percent of the people who said they wanted to move in 2001 had done so by 2003.

Statistical analysis suggests, people that were most satisfied with their neighbourhood were typically:

  • older,
  • female,
  • married,
  • employed full-time,
  • born in Australia,
  • in good health, and
  • resident at the same address for a long period.

As we can see from the far right column in the graph below, 26 percent of people gave their neighbourhood top marks with a 10-out-of-10 rating, followed by 20 percent who gave a 9-out-of-10 rating.


Issues that are important to you

You may recall being asked how you rated the importance of various issues in your life on a scale of 0 to 10. Most people ranked their family as being of greatest importance to them, followed by their health. As shown in the table below, the importance of religion was higher for older people, with people aged 65 years or over typically rating it sixth compared to younger people who typically rated it last, at eight. From the table we also see that leisure activities held more importance for the youngest age group (rated third behind family and health), and that financial matters were more important for people aged 25 to 44 years than for other age groups. The importance people placed on their home increased with age. Despite concerns that Australians may have become more focused on money and the things that money can buy, it is interesting to note that family and personal health consistently ranked higher than financial situation.


Moving house

Nearly one-fifth (18.3%) of the Australian population moved house in in the first year of the study. Most of those moves, however, involved quite short distances. Comparison of addresses in 2001 with those recorded in 2002 reveals the following distribution of moves by distance:

  • 43 per cent involved moves of less than 5 kilometers;
  • 22 per cent were between 5 and 14 kilometers;
  • 14 per cent were between 15 and 49 kilometers;
  • 12 per cent were between 50 and 499 kilometers; and
  • 8.5 per cent were 500 kilometers or more.

The majority of movers are young people (aged 25-34 years) who, on average, stay in the same place for approximately 4 years. Conversely, those aged 65 years or older reported living in the same place for an average of 20 years. Generally, the average time people spend at the one address is 10 years.

Respondents were also asked about the reasons for moving house. In just over half the cases, housing reasons were given for the move (e.g., to get a better or larger place). Family or personal reasons were cited as reasons in a further one-third of moves, job or education reasons in another one-sixth, and neighbourhood reasons in about 7 per cent of cases.

The table below relates the distances moved to the reasons for the move. It can be seen that moves for work or education purposes are typically medium to long distance moves, whereas moves for housing reasons typically involve quite short distances. Further inspection of the data revealed that where the original property was no longer available or where there were changes in the housing requirements (upsizing or downsizing), people tend to settle in the same vicinity. When seeking to obtain their own place, however, people were willing to move slightly further from their original location. Interestingly, moves to a better neighbourhood generally prompted moves of greater distances, but one-third of the moves were still less than 5 kilometers away from their original location.


Buying a house

Is the great Australian dream of owning our own home becoming unattainable?

The results from the 2004 Living in Australia study show that nearly half of the people aged 25 to 29 had bought their first home. One in seven aged 20 to 24 had also bought their first home.

The vast majority aged 20 to 29 who had not yet bought their own home said they intended to do so in the future. The graph below shows that over two thirds of this group were either somewhat or very worried about being able to afford their own home when the time came.


What is important to us changes with time

In 2004, the Living in Australia study asked people aged 15 to 29 to say how important various things were in their lives now and how important those things would be to them when they were 35.

The following table shows the top five important areas and how this changes with age.


Leisure time

It is hard for Australians to find free time.

In 2004, 38 percent of people said they struggled to find free time, while 42 percent reported being unhappy with the amount of free time they had.

Attitude really is everything

Healthy Choices Linked with Outlook on Life Study Claims. Huffington Post 18/9/2012

Research has shown that a healthy 'can do' attitude is linked with good-for-you lifestyle choices like healthy eating, exercise and abstaining from smoking and binge drinking.

The research included approximately 7,000 men and women between the ages of 15 and 69 from the HILDA study between 2003 and 2010. The study found that there is a 'direct link between the type of personality a person has and a healthy lifestyle'.

The study also found that men and women hold different views on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Men were more likely to want to see the physical results from their healthy choices, while women were more receptive to just enjoying the everyday benefits of living healthily.

How does your lifestyle stack up?


Your share of housework

The more a woman earns, the less housework she does.

The graph below shows the number of hours men and women contribute to housework tasks such as cooking, cleaning, running errands and outdoor tasks each week.

We have found that as a woman contributes more to the couples shared income, her household duties tend to be less.

However, even when her share of the couple's income is 30 per cent or higher, the number of hours she spends on housework stays around 25 hours. And, interestingly enough, as the woman earns more, the man contributes slightly more hours to the housework.


School comparisons a tie

school comparisons a lie

Research looking at the difference between public, private and Catholic schools shows that graduates are equally likely to obtain a full time job and earn good money.

Using HILDA data, Dr Jenny Chesters from Canberra University looked at the career outcomes of 2,168 people aged 25 to 34 from a mixture of public, private and Catholic schools and found that although private school students are more likely to complete their secondary school education, the results show that attending a private school does not necessarily pay off in the long run as any advantages gained tend to even out in later life.

Eating fruits, vegetables boosts mental health, says study

Using the HILDA study, the University of Queensland has looked into the eating habits and reported happiness of 12,000 people aged between 15 and 93.

lady picking fruit

Overall, the research found that eating about five fruits and five vegetables per day makes us the happiest we can be. However, it was also found that less than 25 per cent of Australians are receiving the recommended level of fruits and vegetables daily.