Overview: long-term health conditions data

The risk of long-term health conditions may be exacerbated for refugees and humanitarian entrants due to limited access to timely medical services for disease prevention, treatment, and care (WHO 2022).

This section explores the rate of common long-term health conditions in humanitarian entrants. The data presented are derived from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2021 Census of Population and Housing question on long-term health conditions. See Box 4.1. The data presented in this section may differ from other published data on long-term health conditions from the Census, as the data in this report excludes people who do not link to the Person-Level Integrated Data Asset (PLIDA) spine (for more information see Technical notes).

The data collected from this question allows us to explore the proportion of the population who reported living with common long-term health conditions in 2021. A limitation of the long-term health condition variables in the 2021 Census is that the data rely on the responses from a single question, unlike the ABS National health surveys that have a detailed set of questions to capture the information on the conditions more accurately.

Box 4.1: Long-term health condition data from the 2021 Census

In the 2021 Census, a question was included for the first time to capture information on the number of Australians with selected long-term health conditions. 

Respondents could record multiple long-term health conditions including:

  • arthritis
  • asthma
  • cancer (including remission)
  • dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease)
  • diabetes (excluding gestational diabetes)
  • heart disease (including heart attack or angina)
  • kidney disease
  • lung condition (including COPD or emphysema)
  • mental health condition (including depression or anxiety)
  • stroke
  • any other long-term health condition(s).

The question asked if the person had been told by a doctor or nurse that they have any of the 10 listed common long-term health conditions.

People were asked to include health conditions that have lasted, or are expected to last, for six months or more and:

  • may recure from time to time
  • are controlled by medication
  • are in remission.

Information based on self-reported data only is likely to underestimate the rate of long-term health conditions due to respondents either not knowing or not accurately reporting their health condition. These factors may be specifically relevant in the migrant populations who may have English as a second language and lack of trust in government due to previous experiences (Liddell et al. 2021). Additionally, there may be cultural sensitivities around reporting certain health conditions such as mental health conditions (Paudyal et al. 2021).

For information on methods and data sources used in this section see Data sources and methods and Technical notes.


Liddell BJ, Murphy S, Mau V, Bryant R, O'Donnell M, McMahon T, and Nickerson A (2021) Factors associated with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy amongst refugees in Australia, European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 12(1), 1997173. doi:10.1080/20008198.2021.1997173.

Paudyal P, Tattan M and Cooper MJF (2021) Qualitative study on mental health and well-being of Syrian refugees and their coping mechanisms towards integration in the UK, British Medical Journal open, 11(8), e046065. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2020-046065.

World Health Organization (WHO) (2022) Refugee and migrant health, accessed 9 August 2023.