Australian Census 2021 Reveals Growing Population, Religion Declining, More Long-Term Illnesses

Nation changes before pandemic

Article heading image for Australian Census 2021 Reveals Growing Population, Religion Declining, More Long-Term Illnesses

The first and biggest release of statistics from the 2021 Census has been released today, revealing Australia was changing rapidly before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Population, long-term health issues – particularly mental health, and religion were just three of the categories that had noticeably different results compared to the 2016 Census.

“Every stat tells a story and today we are sharing a glimpse into the stories of almost 25.5 million Australians. This accurate and valuable data reveals who we are as a nation and how we have changed.”

- Australian Statistician Dr David Gruen AO

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The thing most affected by the pandemic was noticeably Australia’s population. 

In the past five years, Australia gained one million residents from overseas, but 850,000 of those arrived between 2017 and 2019, with only 160,000 migrants arriving in 2020 and 2021. 

Australia’s newest arrivals has taken the proportion of the country’s residents born overseas or have a parent born overseas to 51.5 per cent. 

In general findings, the 2021 Census counted 25,422,788 people on Census night excluding overseas visitors – an 8.6 per cent (2,020,896) increase from the 2016 Census.

812,728 of the population recognise themselves as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.


Long-term health conditions

For the first time in Census history, information of diagnoses long-term health conditions was collected.

Over two million people reported having at least one of the following conditions: mental health (2,231,543), arthritis (2,150,396) or asthma (2,068,020), with these being the most reported long-term health conditions.

4,791,516 people reported having one of the ten long-term health conditions listed on the Census form, while 1,490,344 had two of these health conditions and 772,142 had three or more of these long-term health conditions.

A further 1,009,836 indicated that they had at least one other long-term health condition that was not listed on the form.

Young Australians reported the most to have higher rates of psychological stress, with Census data showing one in five Australians aged 16 to 34 reported “high or very high levels of psychological distress.”

3.4 million Australians aged 16 to 85 years, or roughly 17 per cent of the population, saw a health professional for their mental health. 

Females were more likely to report a long-term health condition than males, with 33.9 per cent of females having one or more long-term health conditions compared with 29.5 per cent of males.

Males most commonly reported asthma and mental health conditions, while the most commonly reported long term health conditions reported by females were arthritis and mental health conditions.



Christianity remained the most common religion in Australia with 40 per cent identifying as Christian.

However, this has dropped from 52.1 per cent in 2016 as more people move to identifying as having “no religion”, 38.9 per cent.

As in earlier Censuses, the largest Christian denominations were Catholic, 20.0 per cent, and Anglican, 9.8 per cent.

The Hinduism and Islam population have continued to grow in Australia, with 684,002 and 813,392 people identifying as the religions respectively.

Despite being voluntary to answer, there was an increase in the proportion of people answering the question, from 91 per cent in 2016 to 93 per cent in 2021.


More Census date can be viewed at

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28 June 2022

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