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Something to sneeze at: Australia’s flu hotspots go viral

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), January 2009 to December 2013:average annual sample size = 19298 Australians 14+. Regions with an annual sample size under 150 have been excluded.

‘Tis almost the season: cold sweats, sore throats, aching joints and cushiony sinuses. Last year, 23.3% of Australians 14+ reported having the flu in the past 12 months—the lowest result in the last five years. But flu rates in some suburban areas, towns and country regions are consistently around a third higher than the national norm, ranking their residents as among the nation’s most influenzial people, the latest research from Roy Morgan shows.

Three New South Wales regions made the list in 2013: Newcastle (31.9%) just pipped South-Western Sydney (31.8%) as Australia’s flu capital, with Western Sydney (28.8%) in at number five. The flu rate in Newcastle had until last year been close to the national norm, averaging 25.8% from 2009 to 2013, but swelled up by almost 20% in 2013.

South-Western Sydney, however, has now been among the nation’s top five flu hotspots for four consecutive years, with an average annual self-reported flu rate since 2009 of 1 in 3 (33.4%) residents.

Coming in at number three in 2013 is another chronic influenza hotspot: Townsville (31.0%). The tropical region has made the Top Five for the fourth time since 2009.

Queenslanders in non-metro coastal areas are also more prone to suffering the flu (or at least believing they’ve suffered it): 30.4% of them in 2013, giving the area its third consecutive Top Five appearance.

Top Five Flu Hotspots: % of residents who reported having the flu in previous 12 months

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), January 2009 to December 2013:average annual sample size = 19298 Australians 14+. Regions with an annual sample size under 150 have been excluded.

With two regions each in the top five—and many more reporting above-average rates—New South Wales and Queensland were our most fluey states in 2013, with Western Australia spot on the national average. 

•    NSW (26.1%)

•    QLD (25.1%)

•    WA (23.3%)

•    TAS (21.8%)

•    VIC (19.9%)

•    SA (18.2%)

Adelaide has been the capital city with the lowest self-reported rate of flu every year for the last five, while Sydney and Perth have taken turns as Australia’s metropolitan flu capital. 

Angela Smith, Group Account Director - Consumer Products, Roy Morgan Research, says:

"One might well associate the flu with blustery southern winters, but Australia’s top five influenza zones are all more northern than the five regions with the lowest proportion of residents reporting the illness.

“These figures are based on survey respondents’ own assertion that they had the flu in the past year, so while rates may indeed be regularly higher in Townsville, it’s possible the area’s tropically adjusted residents are just more likely to over-diagnose a sniffle.

“Roy Morgan Research measures a full range of ailments and health problems across the Australian population. Our data shows trends over time, as well as differences by geographic area, socioeconomic status and demographics, allowing policy-makers, pharmaceutical makers and retailers, and others in the health industry to better understand, provide for and communicate with consumers.”

For comments or more information please contact:

Angela Smith, Group Account Director - Consumer Products
Telephone: +61 (2) 9021 9101

Please click on this link to the Roy Morgan Online Store

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View our extensive range of Health and Wellbeing Profiles, including Illnesses and Conditions, Pain Relief and Vitamin Buyer profiles. These profiles provide a broad understanding of the target audience, in terms of demographics, attitudes, activities and media usage in Australia. 

About Roy Morgan Research

Roy Morgan Research is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices in each state of Australia, as well as in New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan Research has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

In Australia, Roy Morgan Research is considered to be the authoritative source of information on financial behaviour, readership, voting intentions and consumer confidence. Roy Morgan Research is a specialist in recontact customised surveys which provide invaluable and effective qualitative and quantitative information regarding customers and target markets.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate



25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%