Notes on the data: Chronic diseases and conditions

Estimated population with heart, stroke and vascular disease, 2017–18


Policy context:  The heart, blood and blood vessels make up the circulatory system. The leading conditions contributing to circulatory system disease burden and mortality are hypertension (high blood pressure - see data for high blood pressure under health risk factors), stroke, and ischaemic heart disease (coronary heart disease). These diseases are mainly caused by a damaged blood supply to the heart, brain and/or limbs, and share a number of risk factors. Behavioural risk factors, such as poor diet and tobacco smoking, contribute significantly to the likelihood of developing a circulatory system disease. Heart, stroke and vascular disease includes the circulatory system diseases of heart attack, cerebrovascular diseases such as stroke, heart failure and angina.

In 2017–18, almost 1.2 million people (or 4.8%) had one or more heart, stroke, or vascular diseases with a higher rate for males (5.4% or 643,500 males) than females (4.2% or 510,400 females) [1].


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Heart, stroke and vascular disease. National Health Survey: First Results, 2017–18 — Australia. Canberra: ABS; 2018. Available from:; last accessed 15 October 2019.


Differences from data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS):

Data by quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage and Remoteness will differ to the extent that data extracted from Survey TableBuilder have been randomised, whereas those published by the ABS are not. In addition, rates published by the ABS for modelled estimates are generally crude rates; rates published by PHIDU are age-standardised.

Modelled Estimates:

In the absence of data from administrative data sets, estimates are provided at the Population Health Area (PHA) level for selected chronic diseases and conditions from the 2017–18 National Health Survey (NHS), conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The estimates at the Population Health Area (PHA) are modelled estimates produced by the ABS (estimates at the Local Government Area (LGA) and Primary Health Network (PHN) level were derived from the PHA estimates).

Details of the method used and accuracy of results are available from the ABS paper Explanatory Notes: Modelled estimates for small areas based on the 2017-18 National Health Survey, available here.

For the Primary Health Network (PHN) data, differences between the PHN totals and the sum of LGAs within PHNs result from the use of different geographic correspondence files.

Estimates for quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Remoteness Area are direct estimates, extracted using the ABS Survey TableBuilder.

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 (xlsx) and viewable in the column 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 relatively high survey response rate in the NHS 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 very remote areas of Australia and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; whereas these areas comprise less than 3% of the total population, Aboriginal people comprise up to one third of the population. The survey does not include persons usually resident in non-private dwellings (hospitals, gaols, nursing homes - and also excludes members of the armed forces).

This and other limitations of the method mean that estimates have not been published for PHAs with populations under 1,000.

The ABS used a number of methods to measure the quality of the estimates, one of which is the relative root mean squared error (RRMSE) of the modelled estimates. The RRMSEs are included with the data. Users are advised that:

  • estimates with RRMSEs less than 25% are considered reliable for most purposes;
  • 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.

Indicator detail

In the NHS, respondents were asked if they had ever been told by a doctor or nurse that they had one or more of the following heart, stroke and vascular diseases (also referred to cardiovascular disease) and it was current and long-term at the time of the interview:

  • angina, heart attack and other ischaemic heart diseases;
  • stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases;
  • oedema;
  • heart failure;
  • diseases of the arteries, arterioles and capillaries.

A current and long-term condition is defined as a condition that is current and has lasted, or is expected to last, for 6 months or more.

For the first time in 2014–15, persons who reported having ischaemic heart diseases and cerebrovascular diseases that were not current and long-term at the time of interview were also included. It is also worth noting that a transient ischaemic attack or "mini-stroke" was included on the interviewers prompt card in the 2014–15 NHS and coded to 'other cerebrovascular diseases'. This has seen an increased number of 'other cerebrovascular diseases' from 4,900 people in 2011–12 to 171,200 people in 2014–15 and a decrease in the number of people in 'stroke' from 240,000 in 2011–12 to 172,300 people in 2014–15. For more information, refer to the National Health Survey: First results, 2014–15, Explanatory Notes


Geography: Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Remoteness Area


Numerator:  Estimated number of people with cardiovascular disease as a 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: Age-standardised rates are based on Australian Bureau of Statistics data, produced as a consultancy for PHIDU, from the 2017—18 National Health Survey.

Quintiles & Remoteness: Compiled by PHIDU based on direct estimates from the 2017–18 National Health Survey, ABS Survey TableBuilder.


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