Australian Wellbeing according to HILDA

The HILDA Survey has revealed some startling trends affecting the health and well-being of Australians.

Australian well-being

Men, at almost every age, do twice as much high impact, vigorous exercise – running, sports, and so on – as women. Women exercise least between the ages of 35 and 54 and, in general, women with a partner or dependent child are less likely to exercise. Having a child doesn’t affect the amount of exercise men do. While education doesn’t alter women’s exercise patterns, men with a tertiary qualification had lower activity levels than less educated men.

Surprisingly, men who consume between 29 and 42 drinks per week were found to do 556 minutes more exercise per week, but women who drink that many units per week exercise 520 minutes less than those who drink less than 10 alcoholic beverages per week. Male smokers were found to do more exercise than their non-smoking counterparts.

Living in the country is also associated with higher levels of activity.

Private Health Insurance

The number of Australian households with private health insurance is on the rise and now sits at 60 per cent, an increase from 54 per cent in 2005. The likelihood of having health insurance is strongly associated with income — 33.3 per cent in the bottom income quintile compared with 87.9 per cent in the top quintile. Parents are least likely to be insured, while 87.9 per cent of elderly couples have private health cover.

Cover differs significantly across the country. Tasmanian households rank lowest, with just 54 per cent with health cover compared with the Australian Capital Territory with 81 per cent of households insured.


HILDA data shows 78 per cent of men and 74 per cent of women are getting enough sleep. In general, getting too little sleep is the biggest issue in terms of good quality sleep; getting too much sleep is a problem for men aged 65 and over and women over 75.

Parents with children aged under two report getting significantly less sleep than others, with the negative effect of a young child about three times greater for partnered females than for partnered males. Men do, however, make a positive difference to their partner’s sleep quality. Lone parents with a child under two get over an hour less sleep per night than a partner female with a child under two.

Family Life

People are having children older and relying more on grandparents as childcare costs increase.

The most common age to start a family is between 30 and 34 for men and 25 and 29 for women. Women are the primary decision-maker when it comes to starting a family; satisfaction with her financial situation and with her partner is among the biggest drivers to have a child. The male partner’s satisfaction levels do not greatly factor in the decision.

At the birth of their first child most couples have been together for five years, with approximately 16 per cent of men and women not partnered in the previous wave. 83 Per cent of men and 59 per cent of women were in full-time employment and 58 per cent of couples were homeowners.

starting a family

When a woman is employed, her probability of starting a family decreases. However, for each additional $1000 a woman’s partner earns, her probability of becoming pregnant increases by 1.5 per cent.

The average weekly cost of childcare has increased in real terms by 109 per cent for couples and 132 per cent for lone-parent families since 2002. Grandparents are playing an increasingly significant role in caring for children. A quarter or 25 per cent of couple families regularly use grandparents for childcare for an average of 14 hours per week.


Commenced in 2001, the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey is a nationally representative longitudinal study of Australian households. The study is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services (DSS; previously Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) and is managed by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne.

To learn more about the latest HILDA survey report findings, download a copy of the report

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