During 2018–2020, injuries contributed to 502 deaths of children aged 0–14, a rate of 3.5 per 100,000 children (AIHW 2022a).
In 2020, there were 943 deaths of infants under the age of one, a rate of 3.2 per 1,000 live births (ABS 2021a). Infant deaths accounted for 7 in 10 (71%) deaths among all children aged 0–14. The leading causes of infant deaths were: perinatal conditions (56%), congenital conditions (26%) and symptoms, signs and ill-defined conditions, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (11%) (ABS 2021a). The infant death rate fell from 5.0 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1998 to 3.2 per 1,000 in 2020 (AIHW 2022a).
In 2020, there were 386 deaths of children aged 1–14, a rate of 8.6 per 100,000 children. The leading causes of child deaths were: land transport accidents (13%), malignant brain tumours (8.3%) and congenital conditions (8.3%) (ABS 2021a). The death rate for children aged 1–14 fell from 19.7 deaths per 100,000 in 1998 to 8.6 per 100,000 in 2020 (AIHW 2022a).
See Life expectancy and causes of death.
As of 24 May 2022, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there have been 8 deaths due to COVID-19 among children aged 0–9 and 6 deaths among children aged 10–19 (Department of Health 2022a). For the most recent data on cases and deaths, see the Department of Health’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) case numbers and statistics.
Health risk factors
Why is the most recent data from 2017–18?
Nationally representative estimates on nutrition are derived from the ABS’ National Health Survey (NHS).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, statistics on children’s fruit, vegetable and sugar-sweetened and diet drink consumption were not reported at the time of the NHS 2020–21, the most recent NHS.
The figures presented in this snapshot reflect the latest nationally representative data on nutrition for children.
Good nutrition is key to supporting children’s growth and development (NHMRC 2013).
According to self-reported data from the ABS 2017–18 NHS:
- About 7 in 10 (72%) children aged 5–14 met the recommended guidelines for fruit consumption.
- About 1 in 25 (4.4%) children aged 5–14 met the recommended guidelines for vegetable consumption (ABS 2019e).
It was also estimated that almost half (45%) of children aged 5–14 consumed either sugar-sweetened drinks or diet drinks at least once a week. The proportion was higher for children aged 10–14 (53%) than children aged 5–9 (33%) (ABS 2019e).
Eating behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic
In a survey in June 2020, parents/carers reported that, compared with before the pandemic, over 1 in 4 (26%) children had eaten more in general and 1 in 4 (25%) ate more unhealthy food since the pandemic began (RCHpoll 2020). About 2 in 5 (43%) children were reported to have consumed sugary drinks or ‘treat food’ on most days of the week during the 2 weeks prior to the survey.
In addition to good nutrition, participating in physical activity and limiting sedentary behaviour is critical to a child’s health, development and psychosocial wellbeing. The most recent data available on physical activity and sedentary screen time for children are self-reported from the ABS 2011–12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey.
In 2011–12, among children aged 2–4:
- Most (72%) met the recommended 180 minutes of physical activity each day.
- Just over one-quarter (26%) met the screen-based activity guideline of no more than 60 minutes per day (ABS 2013).
In 2011–12, among children aged 5–14:
- Less than one-quarter (23%) undertook the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
- Less than one-third (32%) met the screen-based activity guidelines.
- Only 1 in 10 (10%) met both sets of guidelines each day (ABS 2013).
On average, children aged 5–14 spent around 2 hours (123 minutes) each day sitting or lying down for screen-based activities, with only 3.5 minutes of this being for homework. Children aged 10–14 spent more time in front of screens (145 minutes) on average in a day than children aged 5–9 (102 minutes) (ABS 2013).
See Insufficient physical activity.
Effects of COVID-19 on physical health
In June 2020, parents/carers reported that only 1 in 10 (10%) children aged 5–18 met the recommended activity guidelines in the 2 weeks prior to the survey (RCHpoll 2020). About 2 in 5 children aged 3–18 were reported to have spent less time being outdoors (42%) and physically active (42%) in a typical week during the pandemic compared with before the pandemic. More teenage children (44%) spent less time being physically active than primary or pre-school aged children (37%). Many children aged 3–18 (51%) were reported to have spent more time on screens for entertainment. More than one-third (36%) of parents said their own or their child’s concern about catching COVID-19 was a barrier to their child engaging in exercise or physical activity outdoors (RCHpoll 2020).
Overweight and obesity
Why is the most recent data from 2017–18?
Nationally representative estimates on overweight and obesity are derived from the ABS’ National Health Survey (NHS).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, physical measurements (including height, weight and waist circumference) were not taken at the time of the NHS 2020–21, the most recent NHS.
While self-reported height and weight were collected as part of the survey, self-reported data underestimates actual levels of overweight and obesity based on objective measurements (ABS 2018b).
As self-reported and measured rates of overweight and obesity should not be directly compared, the figures presented in this snapshot reflect the latest nationally representative data based on measured body mass index.
Based on measured data from the 2017–18 NHS, the majority of children aged 5–14 (67% or an estimated 2 million) were a normal weight and around 1 in 4 (24% or an estimated 746,000) were overweight or obese (ABS 2019d). Almost 1 in 13 (7.7%) children aged 5–14 were obese. The prevalence of overweight and obesity:
- was similar for boys and girls across age groups
- remained relatively stable between 2007–08 and 2017–18 (ABS 2019d).
For further detail of how overweight and obesity is defined and measured, see Overweight and obesity.
Measuring childhood immunisation coverage helps track how protected the community is against vaccine-preventable diseases, and reflects the capacity of the health care system to effectively target and provide vaccinations to children.
In 2021, more than 9 in 10 (93%) children aged 2 were fully immunised. Coverage rates for 2-year-olds are slightly lower than for 1-year-olds (95%) and 5-year-olds (95%) due to changes to the National Immunisation Program Schedule in December 2014 and March 2017 (Department of Health 2022c).
The proportion of children fully immunised at 2 years old was relatively stable at around 91–93% between 2009 and 2021, dropping slightly to 89% in 2015 and 90% in 2017 (Department of Health 2022c).
See Immunisation and vaccination.
COVID-19 vaccination rates
As of 30 April 2022, about half (53%) of children aged 5–11 had one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 37% were fully vaccinated (Department of Health 2022b). Most children aged 12–15 have had one dose (85%) or have been fully vaccinated (80%). For the most recent vaccination data, see the Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccination – vaccination data.
Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services
In 2019–20, 1 in 100 children aged 0–4 (1.0% or 15,600) and 1 in 15 children aged 5–11 (6.8% or 154,000) received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services (AIHW 2022c). Of all people receiving Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services, children aged 0–11 made up 6.2%, with those aged 25–34 making up the greatest proportion of patients (20%). The most common provider type for children was general practitioners (0.7% of all children aged 0–4 and 5.2% of all children aged 5–11) (AIHW 2022c).
COVID-19 impact on mental health services
In August 2021, a survey of parent and carers of children aged 0–18 found that around 1 in 5 (21%) needed mental health support for their child/ren and 73% of those sought help (Biddle et al. 2021). Of those who sought help, 2 in 5 (40%) reported it was difficult or very difficult to access mental health support services for their child.
Kids Helpline reported that nationally the number of duty of care interventions to protect children and young people between December 2020 and 31 May 2021 was nearly twice as high as the same period a year ago (an increase of 99%) (yourtown 2021). This increase in contact to police, child safety or ambulance services was largely due to interventions for suicide attempts (38%) and child abuse (35%).
Where do I go for more information?
For more information on the health of children, see:
Visit Children & youth for more on this topic.