Technical notes

Data gaps and opportunities

Comprehensive, accurate and timely data are needed for effective population health monitoring of the health of Australia’s females. Although national health information collections and research continue to develop and improve, data and information gaps still remain on many topic areas related to female health.

Current gaps on female health topics include:

  • data on sexual and reproductive health issues including prevalence, health service use and the impacts of:
    • heavy menstruation
    • premenstrual dysphoric disorder and pre-menstrual syndrome  
    • assisted fertility treatments
    • contraception use
    • surgical and medical pregnancy terminations
    • ectopic pregnancy
    • polycystic ovarian syndrome
    • miscarriage
  • information on menopause and it impacts the health of females, for example as an independent risk factor for chronic conditions
  • data on incontinence and how it impacts risk factors such as physical activity
  • data for priority population groups relating to reproductive and sexual health such as females who:
    • are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    • live in rural and remote areas
    • identify as LGBTIQA+
    • live with a disability
    • are from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities
    • are in the justice system
    • are carers or receiving care.

Commonwealth investment in female health research

Between 2000 and 2022, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has expended $1.7 billion towards research relevant to female health.

From its inception in 2015, to 31 March 2023 the Medical Research Future Fund has invested $196.4 million in 92 grants with a focus on female health research. This includes research grants focussing on clinical trials, treatment and support for metastatic breast cancer, endometriosis research, ovarian and other female reproductive tract cancers, as well as long-term maternal health and wellbeing of females.

These grants include:

  • $15 million to Monash University for a clinical trial to investigate the use of mitochondrial donation (a reproductive technology) to enable females at risk for passing on mitochondrial DNA disease to reduce their risk of having an affected child
  • $5 million to Charles Darwin University for a study to establish exemplar Birthing on Country maternal child health services in rural, remote and very remote Australia in 5 years
  • $3 million to the St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research to assess the effectiveness of an AI mammogram reader in breast cancer screening to improve accuracy and experience. Ultimately this can enable a more effective and personalised BreastScreen service to the one million females who are annually screened for breast cancer.

Data sources and quality

The data presented in this report come from multiple data sources, including surveys and administrative data sources. These sources include:

  • Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health
  • Australasian Menopause Society
  • Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care
  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018: Interactive data on risk factor burden
  • AIHW Australian Burden of Disease Study: Impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2018
  • AIHW Australian Burden of Disease Study 2022
  • AIHW National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019
  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2020–21 National Health Survey (NHS)
  • ABS 2018–19 Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey
  • ABS 2017–18 NHS
  • ABS National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing
  • ABS 2016 Personal Safety Survey
  • COVID-19 Epidemiology and Surveillance Team
  • National Mental Health Commission
  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  • Safe Work Australia
  • Services Australia – Medicare
  • The Royal Women’s Hospital
  • University of NSW – The Kirby Institute
  • World Health Organization.

Data considerations

Previous versions of the NHS have primarily been administered by trained ABS interviewers and were conducted face to face. The 2020−21 NHS was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. To maintain the safety of survey respondents and ABS Interviewers, the survey was collected via online, self-completed forms.

Non-response is usually reduced through interviewer follow-up of households who have not responded. As this was not possible during lockdown periods, there were lower response rates than previous NHS cycles, which impacted sample representativeness for some sub-populations. Therefore, the 2020–21 NHS was not used to produce estimates at sub-national levels. For this reason, 2017–18 NHS data are used when there are sub-national levels estimates.

As the 2020–21 NHS was considered a break in cycle, therefore direct comparisons to previous NHS surveys cannot be made.

For further information, refer to the ABS National Health Survey: First results methodology.