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Latest release

High cholesterol

Contains key statistics and information about high cholesterol and its prevalence within Australia

Reference period
2017 - 2018
Released
12/12/2018
Next release Unknown
First release

Key statistics

  • 1.5 million Australians had high cholesterol.
  • Proportion of people with high cholesterol doubled from age 45-54 years (7%) to 55-64 years (14%).
  • 21% of people aged 65 years and over had high cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a type of fat that circulates in the blood. It is essential for many metabolic processes, including the production of hormones and building cells. Too much cholesterol in the bloodstream can lead to fatty deposits building up in the blood vessels, making it harder for blood to flow and increasing the risk of heart disease or stroke[1].

Who had high cholesterol in 2017-18?

In 2017-18, 6.1% of all Australians (1.5 million people) had high cholesterol, which was a decline from 7.1% in 2014-15. The prevalence has fallen to a similar rate to that observed a decade ago in 2007-08 of 5.7%.

The same proportion of males and females had high cholesterol (6.1%). As with many health conditions, the prevalence of high cholesterol increases with age with a sharp increase from age 45 years. The proportion of people with high cholesterol doubled from age 45-54 years (6.8%) to 55-64 years (14.1%) and increased to one in five people aged 65 years and over (21.2%). 

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In 2017–18, adults aged 18 years and over who were obese were more than twice as likely as adults who were in the normal weight range to have high cholesterol (11.2% compared to 4.5%).

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2011-12 biomedical information

For people with high cholesterol there are often no symptoms or signs - they can have high cholesterol yet feel well[2]. In 2011-12, biomedical information was collected for the first time by ABS, including a range of cholesterol tests. Results were used to determine indicators of high or abnormal levels of cholesterol across the population. 

In 2011-12, one in three Australians aged 18 years and over (32.8% or 5.6 million people) had abnormal or high total cholesterol levels according to their blood test results (total cholesterol greater than or equal to 5.5 mmol/L). Yet only 10.1% of this group self-reported having high cholesterol as a current and long-term health condition. This suggests that the majority of people with high cholesterol results were either unaware that they had the condition or did not consider it to be a long-term or current problem. 

For more information see Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Chronic Diseases, 2011-12 (cat. no. 4364.0.55.005).  

Data downloads

Table 3: Long-term health conditions - Australia

Table 4: Long-term health conditions by population characteristics - Australia

Table 5: Selected current long-term conditions by health risk factors and health status - Australia

Table 20: New South Wales

Table 21: Victoria

Table 22: Queensland

Table 23: South Australia

Table 24: Western Australia

Table 25: Tasmania

Table 26: Northern Territory

Table 27: Australian Capital Territory

Endnotes

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1 Better Health Channel, 2014, Cholesterol, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/cholesterol; last accessed 19/10/2018

2 Heart Foundation, Blood cholesterol, https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/know-your-risks/blood-cholesterol; last accessed 19/10/2018