Health risk factors

Data considerations

Data from the 2017–18 NHS presented in this chapter have been tested for significance at the 5% level using confidence intervals, and comprehensive tables are available in Health of veterans: supplementary data tables – Table S6. For more information on the methodology used, see Technical notes.

While comparisons can be inferred from the information provided here from the 2017–18 NHS, some differences between the populations are likely to be confounded by the older age structure of the population who have ever served in the ADF, and comparisons should be used as a guide only. The results presented below have not been adjusted for age as the data could not meet requirements to do so, and readers should take this into consideration when interpreting the results presented.

Currently, women comprise around 14% of the population who have ever served in the ADF (based on self-reported data from the 2017–18 NHS). These relatively low numbers constrain reporting on the health of women who have served, therefore this section of the report presents data for men only.

A person’s health and their capacity to remain healthy can be affected by a wide range of lifestyle factors, which can influence a person’s health in the short or long term. These can be protective or detrimental.

Veterans’ health is influenced by health behaviours that may be related to ADF service or individual lifestyle. Screening at recruitment and aspects of serving in the ADF, such as the requirement to maintain a high level of physical fitness and regular health assessments may act as a protective factor for veterans’ health.

The results presented below have not been adjusted for age as the data could not meet requirements to do so. Given the nature of DVA clients and the age structure of the ADF population, some results below are likely to be confounded by age and as such comparisons should be used as a guide only.

Based on self-reported data from the 2017–18 NHS of males aged 18 years and over:

  • Smoking: 14% of those who ever served in the ADF smoked daily, which was similar to those who had never served (17%). One in 10 (10%) DVA clients smoked daily, which was similar to non-DVA clients (15%).
  • Alcohol consumption: 29% of those who had ever served in the ADF exceeded the NHMRC lifetime alcohol risk guidelinesin the week prior to the interview, which was higher than the 23% of those who had never served (Figure 9). More than one-third (#36%2) of DVA clients exceeded the NHMRC alcohol lifetime risk guidelines in the week prior to the NHS interview, which is similar to the proportion of non-DVA clients (27%) (Figure 10).

[1]For healthy men and women, drinking no more than 2 standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury. Refer to Glossary for more information.  

[2]Proportions marked with a hash (#) have a high MoE and should be interpreted with caution. A high MoE is considered as greater than 10%.

Figure 9: Alcohol risk guidelines exceeded by males aged 18 years and over, by ADF service status, 2017–18

The bar chart shows that males who had served in the ADF were more likely to exceed alcohol lifetime risk guidelines than males who had never served..

*A statistically significant difference between men who have served in the ADF and men who have not served in the ADF, calculated using the confidence interval of the difference between the two proportions.

Notes

1. For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks per day (lifetime risk guidelines), and drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single drinking occasion (single occasion risk guidelines), reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol related disease or injury.

2. Results have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data.

3. Proportions have been calculated using weighted estimates.

4. The thin vertical lines superimposed over the top end of each bar are 95% confidence intervals.

Chart: AIHW.

Source: ABS (2018) Microdata: National Health Survey, 2017–18, ABS cat no. 4324.0.55. 001, findings based on TableBuilder analysis. Canberra: ABS. See Health of veterans: supplementary data tables – Table S6.

Figure 10: Alcohol risk guidelines exceeded by males aged 18 years and over, by DVA client status, 2017–18

The bar chart shows that males were equally likely to exceed lifetime and single occasion alcohol risk guidelines, regardless of DVA client status.

# Proportion has a high margin of error and should be used with caution

Notes

1. For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks per day (lifetime risk guidelines), and drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single drinking occasion (single occasion risk guidelines), reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol related disease or injury.

2. Results have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data.

3. Proportions have been calculated using weighted estimates.

4. The thin vertical lines superimposed over the top end of each bar are 95% confidence intervals.

Chart: AIHW.

Source: ABS (2018) Microdata: National Health Survey, 2017–18, ABS cat no. 4324.0.55. 001, findings based on TableBuilder analysis. Canberra: ABS. See Health of veterans: supplementary data tables – Table S6.

 

  • Overweight and obesity: according to the standard BMI classification[3], more than 82% of those who had ever served in the ADF were overweight or obese, which was higher than those who had never served (74%). DVA clients had similar rates of being overweight or obese to non-DVA clients (85% and 80% respectively).
  • Fruit and vegetable consumption: more than half those who had ever served in the ADF and those who had never served did not meet the NHMRC fruit consumption guidelines[4], which was also similar for both DVA and non-DVA clients. About 95% did not meet the vegetable consumption guidelines[5], regardless of ADF status or DVA client status.
  • Physical activity: Around 80% of males did not meet the 2014 Physical Activity guidelines (including workplace activity), regardless of ADF status or DVA client status. (Figures 11 and 12)[6].

[3]Body mass index (BMI) scores were calculated as weight (kg) divided by height (m)2. 2017–18 NHS publications use aggregated categories for estimates in published tables. Refer to Glossary for more information.

[4]The 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults eat 2 serves of fruit and 5–6 serves of vegetables per day to achieve adequate fruit and vegetable intake (NHMRC 2013). Refer to Glossary for more information.

[5]The Physical activity and Exercise guidelines developed by the Department of Health outline how much physical activity Australians should do depending on their age. Refer to Glossary for more information.

Figure 11: Physical activity of males aged 18 years and over, by ADF service status, 2017–18

The bar chart shows that males were equally likely to not meet physical activity guidelines, regardless of ADF service status.

Notes

1. The Physical activity and Exercise guidelines outline how much physical activity Australians should do depending on their age.

2. Results have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data.

3. Proportions have been calculated using weighted estimates.

4. The thin vertical lines superimposed over the top end of each bar are 95% confidence intervals.

Chart: AIHW.

Source: ABS (2018) Microdata: National Health Survey, 2017–18, ABS cat no. 4324.0.55. 001, findings based on TableBuilder analysis. Canberra: ABS. See Health of veterans: supplementary data tables – Table S6.

Figure 12: Physical activity of males aged 18 years and over, by DVA client status, 2017–18

The bar chart shows that males were equally likely to not meet physical activity guidelines, regardless of DVA client status.

Notes

1. The Physical activity and Exercise guidelines outline how much physical activity Australians should do depending on their age.

2. Results have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data.

3. Proportions have been calculated using weighted estimates.

4. The thin vertical lines superimposed over the top end of each bar are 95% confidence intervals.

Chart: AIHW.

Source: ABS (2018) Microdata: National Health Survey, 2017–18, ABS cat no. 4324.0.55. 001, findings based on TableBuilder analysis. Canberra: ABS. See Health of veterans: supplementary data tables – Table S6.