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Health costs and economic uncertainty dominate Australian household concerns

Rising health care costs of major concern to three out of four Australian households

08 September 2016

74% of Australian households have cited healthcare as a source of economic worry, in the wake of a 48% cumulative increase in private health insurance premiums, over the last seven years. 

CHOICE's latest Consumer Pulse report has found health cost concerns have jumped by 9%, taking them to their highest level since the quarterly national survey began 24 months ago. 

"Following an almost 50% cumulative price increase on private health insurance premiums since 2009, it's little wonder Australians are anxious about the costs of cover for their families," says CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland. 

"It's significant that for the first time in the survey, health costs are the second highest household cost concern, sitting behind electricity, which remains top of the list. This underlines the importance of health insurance reforms, delivering greater value and transparency, as a priority in the new Parliament." 

Electricity prices are the biggest household cost concern for the ninth consecutive quarter, worrying 81% of consumers and pointing to deep problems in Australia's retail energy markets.

"Ongoing electricity price rises and grinding complexity have led consumers to raise reasonable questions about the current policy approach to market regulation – and deregulation – for this essential service," Mr Kirkland says.

Australians' optimism about the economy has been on the slide, with just 24% of those surveyed rating the economy as good and 41% believing the economy is neither performing well or poorly.

"With economic concern overseas, but relative stability in Australia, consumers are finding the economy's future prospects difficult to gauge. The overwhelming sense is one of uncertainty," says Mr Kirkland.

A real concern is almost one in three (28%) people are struggling to get by on their current income. Almost one in five people have lived off a credit card in the last 12 months to get through to their next payday. Those living alone are some of the worst off, with more than a third (36%) saying they are finding it difficult to get by financially.

"The research shows big red flags for financial stress, particularly among certain groups in the community. People living alone are among the worst off, but are sometimes hidden in the national conversation about the groups struggling," Mr Kirkland says.

Despite being cast as a generation of entitled complainers, Gen Y was the least likely (20%) to say they are doing it tough. That honour belonged to Gen X (33%) and the Baby Boomers (31%). This is despite Gen Y being the most likely to have deliberately missed paying a bill by the due date (13%) in the last 12 months. They are also more seriously looking to increase or maintain their level of savings (70%) and are more worried about interest rates (56%), possibly as the reality of saving for a home deposit or servicing a mortgage sets in.

Media contact:

Tom Godfrey, CHOICE Head of Media: 0430 172 669


Set up by consumers for consumers, CHOICE is the consumer advocate that provides Australians with information and advice, free from commercial bias. As vital today as when we were founded in 1959, CHOICE continues to fight for consumers and uncover the truth. By mobilising Australia's largest and loudest consumer movement, CHOICE fights to hold industry and government accountable and achieve real change on the issues that matter most.

Top findings

1. The number one Australian household cost concern is electricity, a trend which has continued for nine straight quarters.

2. Those living alone are doing it tough, with more than a third (36%) saying they were finding it difficult to get by financially.

3. Almost one in five people have lived off a credit card in the last 12 months to get through to payday. 

4. About three in 10 Australians are finding it difficult to get by on their present income (28%).

5. Along with concern about cuts in government spending (65%), Australians are worried about their level of savings and investments (60%) and the value of their superannuation (53%).

Victoria and NSW are leading the pack for positive sentiment about the state of the Australian economy. However, positivity across all states has dropped since June 2015.

Notes to editors:

Consumer Pulse research is a study conducted by CHOICE among a sample of 1025 respondents aged 18-75 years. The sample is a nationally representative of the Australian population, based on the 2011 ABS Census data. The study was conducted via an online self-complete survey in partnership with The ORU. The ORU is an ISO 20252 / ISO 26362 accredited panel provider and full AMSRO member. Fieldwork was undertaken from 21 to 29 July 2016.