How healthy is the typical Australian?

The typical Australian is a non-smoker and has never smoked, does 42 minutes of exercise every day, is overweight or obese and does not eat enough vegetables.


Data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) National Health Survey 2017-18 shows that more than half of Australians (56 per cent) thought they were in excellent or very good health, while 15 per cent were feeling in fair or poor health.


Chronic conditions

Just under half (47.3%) of Australians had one or more chronic conditions in 2017-18, an increase from 2007-08 when two-fifths (42.2%) of people had one or more chronic conditions.


Chronic health conditions experienced in Australia in 2017-18 were:

  • Mental and behavioural conditions - 4.8 million people (20.1%)
  • Back problems - 4.0 million people (16.4%)
  • Arthritis - 3.6 million people (15.0%)
  • Asthma - 2.7 million people (11.2%)
  • Diabetes mellitus- 1.2 million people (4.9%) comprising Type 1 Diabetes - 144,800 people (0.6%) and Type 2 Diabetes - 998,100 people (4.1%)
  • Heart, stroke and vascular disease - 1.2 million people (4.8%)
  • Osteoporosis - 924,000 people (3.8%)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - 598,800 people (2.5%)
  • Cancer - 432,400 people (1.8%)
  • Kidney disease - 237,800 people (1.0%)


ABS Director of Health Statistics, Louise Gates, said the typical Australian male weighed 87kg and stood 175cm tall and was therefore overweight while the typical female weighed 72kg and was 161cm tall and was also overweight.


Physical activity

“On average, we were doing 42 minutes of exercise every day, which mostly consisted of walking for transport or walking for exercise (24.6 minutes), however we didn’t participate in sufficient strength and toning activities", Ms Gates said. "In addition, 44 per cent of us spent most of our work day sitting."


  • Overall Australians aged 15 years and over exercised 42 minutes per day on average, the largest part of which consisted of walking for transport and walking for exercise (24.6 minutes).
  • However, only a minority met the physical activity guidelines with 1.9% of 15-17 year olds, 15.0% of 18-64 year olds and 17.2% of 65 year olds and over meeting the 2014 Physical Activity Guidelines in 2017-18.
  • One in ten (10.3%) 15-17 year olds engaged in 60 minutes of exercise (excluding workplace physical activity) every day and around one in six (15.8%) did strength or toning activities on three or more days in the last week.
  • More than half (55.4%) of 18-64 years olds undertook 150 minutes or more of exercise in the last week, excluding workplace physical activity and this increased to 65.5% when workplace physical activity was included.
  • One quarter (24.9%) of 18-64 year olds undertook strength or toning activities on two or more days in the last week.
  • Just over a quarter (26.1%) of older adults (65 years and over) engaged in 30 minutes of exercise on 5 or more days in the last week.
  • Adults aged 18-64 years described their day at work as mostly sitting (43.7%), 22.8% described their day as mostly walking, 19.5% as mostly standing and 13.6% as mostly heavy labour or physically demanding work


Fruit and vegetable consumption

“More than half of us were eating the recommended daily intake of fruit but not enough vegetables, with only 7.5 per cent of adults eating the recommended daily serves of vegetables."


  • In 2017-18, just over half (51.3%) of Australians aged 18 years and over met the guidelines for the recommended daily serves of fruit (2 or more serves).
  • One in thirteen (7.5%) adults met the guidelines for serves of vegetables (5-6 or more serves for men depending on age, and 5 or more for women).
  • Only one in twenty (5.4%) adults met both the fruit and the vegetable recommendations. These rates have remained fairly consistent over time.
  • One in seventeen (6.0%) children aged 2-17 years met the guidelines for the recommended number of serves of both fruit and vegetables in 2017-18. Over seven in ten (73.0%) children ate the recommended serves of fruit, an increase from 2014-15 (70.1%)


Mental and behavioural conditions

  • In 2017-18, one in five (20.1%) or 4.8 million Australians had a mental or behavioural condition, an increase from 4.0 million Australians (17.5%) in 2014-15.
  • In 2017-18, 3.2 million Australians (13.1%) had an anxiety-related condition, an increase from 11.2% in 2014-15.
  • One in ten people (10.4%) had depression or feelings of depression, an increase from 8.9% in 2014-15.


In good news, while 79 per cent of us consumed alcohol in the last year, we did so at safe levels.


Fewer than half of Australians (48 per cent) consumed either sugar sweetened or diet drinks and 47 per cent of Australians had at least one chronic health condition.


Further details are in National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18 (cat. no. 4364.0.55.001) from the ABS website


13 December 2018.