Source: The Australian, 25 June, 1996, p.1, 4

Snapshot finds us older, richer and home alone in the city

By social affairs writer MICHELLE GUNN 
AUSTRALIANS are getting 
older, wealthier, moving to capi- 
tal cities and increasingly living 
We're also shunning public 
transport, having fewer chil- 
dren, becoming more educated, 
relying more on Medicare and 
still striving to buy our own 
quarter-acre block. 
And despite the view that 
retirees usually head north in 
search of the sun, a snapshot of 
Australian social trends 
released yesterday shows that 
Adelaide boasts the largest pro- 
portion of the nation's elderly. 
Darwin has the youngest 
population, despite Brisbane 
recording the highest popu- 
lation growth rates in the eight 
years to 1994. 
The national snapshot, titled 
Australian Social Trends 1996, 
shows we spend an average of 1 
hour and 27 minutes each day in 
our cars driving to work, visiting 
friends and doing the shopping. 
Released by the Australian 
Bureau of Statistics, the 187-page 
report also shows declining fer- 
tility and mortality levels, 
increasing urbanisation, 
improvements in school reten- 
tion rates and a decline in the use 
of nursing homes for the aged. 
The annual report, which 
includes unpublished data gath- 
ered by the ABS, also indicates: 
· 70 per cent of the nation's 
families own or are purchasing 
their own homes, giving Aust- 
ralia one of the highest levels of 
home ownership in the OECD. 
· The population living in 
Continued-Page 4 
More reports-Page 4 
Older, wealthier and alone in the cities 
From Page 1 
capital cities grew by 10 per cent 
in the eight years to 1994, with 
Brisbane and Perth growing by 
almost 20 per cent each. While 
Sydney and Melbourne grew by 
less than 8 per cent, they 
remain our two largest cities, 
boasting 3.7 million and 3.2 
million residents respectively. 
· The number of cars, station 
wagons and four-wheel drives 
has doubled since 1965, with 84 
per cent of households now 
having at least one vehicle. 
More than 70 per cent of Aust- 
ralians use a car each day, 
compared to 33 per cent who 
walk, 9 per cent who take public 
transport and two per cent who 
ride a bike. 
· Falling fertility rates and 
an ageing population will mean 
that Australia's population 
growth will fall for at least the 
next 50 years. 
· More than 10 per cent, or 1.5 
million Australians, live alone 
-almost a third of whom are 
widowed women who have out- 
lived their husbands. A growing 
number of men also live alone, 
after suffering divorce or separ- 
The report, which also exam- 
ines Australia's growing 
relationship with Asia, shows 
that Asian-born Australians 
now number 866,000, or account 
for more than one fifth of the 
nation's overseas-born popu- 
Last year, 4700 Australians 
left permanently to live in Asia, 
almost 20,000 left to spend a 
year or more, and 939,000 trav- 
elled to Asia on short-term 
The ABS report also includes 
an evaluation of the first 10 
years of Medicare in Australia 
and shows an increase in the 
use of Medicare services from 
an average of seven each year 
10 years ago, up to 10 each year 
in 1994. 
The report shows women use 
their Medicare cards more than 
men, while NSW has far higher 
rates than other States. The 
three most common services 
are general practitioner (45 per 
cent), pathology (24 per cent) 
and specialists (9 per cent). 
The report paints a disturb- 
ing picture of the health, 
income, education and housing 
conditions of the nation's indi- 
genous population, with almost 
60 per cent of Aborigines 
recording an income of less 
than $12,000 per year. This com- 
pares to 46 per cent for white 
The life expectancy of Abor- 
iginal people is also estimated 
to be 15 to 20 years less than 
others and their death rates are 
more than double those of non- 
indigenous Australians. 
The report, which will be used 
by social policy makers, also 
shows the number of accidental 
deaths involving children has 
declined, probably as a result of 
laws on baby capsules in cars 
and compulsory fencing 
around swimming pools. 
Despite this, 127 children died 
in motor vehicle accidents in 
1994 and 64 children drowned.

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