Notes on the data: Chronic diseases and conditions

Estimated population with arthritis, 2014–15


Policy context:  Arthritis is an inflammatory condition affecting one or more joints within the body. There are many causes, and the treatment varies according to the cause and may involve lifestyle change, pharmaceutical medication, physiotherapy and occasionally, surgical intervention. Females are more likely to be affected than males, and the prevalence of arthritis increases with age.


Notes:  In the absence of data from administrative data sets, estimates are provided for certain chronic diseases and conditions from the 2014–15 National Health Survey (NHS), conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Estimates for Quintiles and Remoteness Areas are direct estimates from the 2014–15 NHS, extracted using the ABS Survey TableBuilder.

Estimates at the PHA level are modelled estimates produced by the ABS, as described below (estimates at the LGA and PHN level were derived from the PHA estimates).

Users of these modelled estimates should note that they do not represent data collected in administrative or other data sets. As such, they should be used with caution, and treated as indicative of the likely social dimensions present in an area with these demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

The numbers are estimates for an area, not measured events as are, for example, death statistics. As such, they should be viewed as a tool that, when used in conjunction with local area knowledge and taking into consideration the prediction reliability, can provide useful information that can assist with decision making for small geographic regions. Of particular note is that the true value of the published estimates is also likely to vary within a range of values as shown by the upper and lower limits published in the data (xls) and viewable in the bar chart in the single map atlases.

What the modelled estimates do achieve, however, is to summarise the various demographic, socioeconomic and administrative information available for an area in a way that indicates the expected level of each health indicator for an area with those characteristics. In the absence of accurate, localised information about the health indicator, such predictions can usefully contribute to policy and program development, service planning and other decision-making processes that require an indication of the geographic distribution of the health indicator.

The survey response rate of around 85% provides a high level of coverage across the population; however, the response rate among some groups is lower than among other groups, e.g., those living in the most disadvantaged areas have a lower response rate than those living in less disadvantaged areas. Although the sample includes the majority of people living in households in private dwellings, it excludes those living in the most remote areas of Australia; whereas these areas comprise less than 3% of the total population, Aboriginal people comprise up to one third of the population in these areas. This and other limitations of the method mean that estimates have not been published for PHAs with populations under 1,000, or with a high proportion of their population in:

  1. non-private dwellings (hospitals, gaols, nursing homes - and also excludes members of the armed forces);
  2. in Very Remote areas;
  3. in discrete Aboriginal communities; and
  4. where the relative root mean square errors (RRMSEs) on the estimates was 1 or more (estimate replaced with ≠)


  1. Estimates with RRMSEs from 0.25 and to 0.50 have been marked (~) to indicate that they should be used with caution; and those greater than 0.50 but less than 1 are marked (~~) to indicate that the estimate is considered too unreliable for general use.
  2. For the PHN data, differences between the PHN totals and the sum of LGAs within PHNs result from the use of different concordances.

Indicator detail

These data refer to respondents who were asked whether they have, or had ever had:

  • gout;
  • rheumatism;
  • arthritis;
  • osteoarthritis;
  • rheumatoid arthritis;
  • other types of arthritis.

If they reported either gout or rheumatism, they were then asked whether their condition was expected to last for six months or more. If they identified an arthritis condition, other than gout or rheumatism, they were asked whether they had ever been told by a doctor or nurse that they have the condition. Only persons whose arthritis was current and long-term were recorded as having arthritis. Persons who reported having arthritis, which was not current and long-term, were recorded as not having arthritis. A long-term condition is defined as a condition that is current and has lasted, or is expected to last, for 6 months or more.

Arthritis is defined as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and other arthritis or type unknown, that is current and long-term.

The 2014-15 NHS differs from the 2011-12 AHS in that respondents were not immediately asked, in the first question of the module, whether they had ever been told by a doctor or nurse they have arthritis. For more information refer to the NHS Users’ Guide, 2014-15.


Geography: Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintiles and Remoteness Areas


Numerator:  Estimated number of people with arthritis as a current, long-term condition


Denominator:  Total population


Detail of analysis:  Indirectly age-standardised rate per 100 population; and/or indirectly age-standardised ratio, based on the Australian standard



PHA, LGA & PHN: Compiled by PHIDU based on modelled estimates from the 2014–15 National Health Survey, ABS (unpublished).

Quintiles & Remoteness: Compiled by PHIDU based on direct estimates from the 2014–15 National Health Survey, ABS Survey TableBuilder.


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