Health risk factors and remoteness

People in regional and remote Australia were more likely to engage in behaviours associated with poorer health. This included higher rates of daily smoking, alcohol intake, overweight and obesity, and lower levels of exercise.  

Rates of different health behaviours and risk factors in different residential areas 

Health risk factors Major cities Inner regional Outer regional/
 Current daily smoker 13% 17% 21%
 Overweight or obese 61% 69% 69%
No/low levels of exercise 64% 70% 72%
 Exceed lifetime alcohol risk guideline 16% 18% 23%
 High blood pressure 22% 27% 24%


  1. ‘%’ represents prevalence of risk factor in each region (excluding Very remote areas of Australia).
  2. ‘Proportions’ are not age-standardised and, in some instances, higher prevalence may reflect the older age profiles in Inner regional and Outer regional/Remote areas.


  • In 2014–15 people living outside of Major cities had higher rates of current daily smoking based on self-reported data, with the proportion increasing with remoteness. About 1 in 5 (21%) people living in Outer regional and remote areas smoked tobacco daily, compared with 17% of people living in Inner regional areas and 13% in Major cities [1]. 

Diet and weight status

  • About 7 in 10 adults (69%) from Inner regional, Outer regional and remote areas were measured as overweight or obese in 2014–15, compared with about 6 in 10 (61%) in Major cities.
  • In contrast to the higher rates of overweight and obesity, people living in Outer regional and remote areas were more likely to eat the recommended number of serves of vegetables per day compared to those living in Major cities or Inner regional areas (11% and 7%, respectively). The proportion of people eating the recommended two serves of fruit per day was generally the same across all areas.
  • The likelihood of consuming alcohol in quantities that risked harm in the long term increased with remoteness. For example, 23% of people living in Outer regional and remote areas consumed alcohol in amounts that risked long-term harm, compared to 18% in Inner regional areas and 16% in Major cities.


  • Physical inactivity increased with remoteness. Almost three-quarters (72%) of people from Outer regional and remote areas did no or little exercise in 2014–15, compared with 64% in Major cities.

High blood pressure

  • In 2014–15, the proportion of people with high blood pressure (hypertension) was greater for people living in Inner regional (27%) and Outer regional and remote (24%) areas, compared with people living in Major cities (22%). 


  1. ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2015. National Health Survey: First Results, 2014–15. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.