The Biomedical Data Explorer presents results from blood and urine tests in the 2014/15 New Zealand Health Survey. Tests included biomarkers of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver function, nutrition, and immunity to measles and rubella. Results are available by gender, age group, ethnic group and neighbourhood deprivation. Where possible, results are compared with the 2008/09 Adult Nutrition Survey.
The results come from a module in the 2014/15 New Zealand Health Survey. At the end of the main 2014/15 survey, about half of adult respondents were invited to take part in the biomedical module. This involved going to a local medical laboratory to provide a blood and urine sample. A total of 5,027 adults took part, which represents 67 percent of those invited. For more information about the biomedical module, see the Methodology section of the Biomedical Data Explorer.
Published data can be downloaded from the Biomedical Data Explorer as a .csv file, or as a PDF using the ‘print view’ function.
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Overview of findings
Measles and rubella
Immunity to measles and rubella was measured in adults aged under 45 years. Older adults are known to have high levels of natural immunity because they were born before vaccination for these infections was introduced.
- 77.1 percent of adults aged 15-44 years had immunity to measles, with slightly lower levels of immunity in men (74.7%) than in women (79.5%).
- 78.1 percent of adults aged 15-44 years had immunity to rubella, with slightly lower levels of immunity in men (76.5%) than in women (79.7%).
- Measles immunity was lowest in those aged 15-34 years and rubella immunity was lowest in those aged 15-24 years.
Iodine is an essential component of thyroid hormones, which play a critical role in maintaining the body’s metabolic rate and normal growth and mental development. In late 2009 the use of iodised salt in bread-making became mandatory to help address the re-emergence of iodine deficiency in New Zealand.
- Urinary iodine levels almost doubled between 2008/09 and 2014/15 for adults overall and in all age, gender and ethnic groups.
- In 2014/15 iodine status was adequate for men in all age and ethnic groups. Iodine status was adequate for women overall and women of Māori, Pacific and Asian ethnicity. However, women of European/Other ethnicity still had mild iodine deficiency.
Diets high in sodium put strain on the kidneys and can raise blood pressure. Most sodium in our diets comes from salt (sodium chloride) in manufactured or processed foods.
- Urinary sodium levels suggest that daily sodium intake is about 3000 mg, which is above the World Health Organization recommendation of 2000 mg.
- There was no change in urinary sodium levels between 2008/09 and 2014/15.
- Urinary sodium levels were higher in adults living in the most deprived areas, after adjusting for age, gender and ethnic differences.
Cholesterol is a type of fat that is carried around the body in the blood. High levels of total cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
- Average total cholesterol was 5.10 mmol/L, with lower levels in men (4.99 mmol/L) than in women (5.20 mmol/l).
- Average HDL cholesterol was 1.33 mmol/L, with lower levels in men (1.21 mmol/L) than in women (1.45 mmol/L).
- After adjusting for demographic differences, the ratio of total-to-HDL cholesterol was higher (worse) in men, Māori women and Asian men.
- Between 2008/09 and 2014/15 there was a small but significant decline in HDL cholesterol in adults overall and several population subgroups.
Glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) measures the amount of glucose attached to haemoglobin in red blood cell and is a useful measure of average blood sugar levels. A single HbA1c test cannot be used to diagnose diabetes in people without symptoms, but it can be used to identify differences between groups and assess blood sugar control in people with diabetes.
- After adjusting for demographic differences, HbA1c levels were higher in Māori and Pacific adults, and in Asian men.
- Among adults who reported they had diabetes, about one in four had suboptimal blood sugar control (defined as HbA1c of 65 mmol/mol or higher in the survey).
Liver function is affected by a range of factors including obesity, excess alcohol consumption, infections and certain medications. Elevated liver enzymes can be a sign of liver inflammation or damage, although further tests are required to confirm this.
- Pacific men were more likely to have elevated levels of the liver enzymes alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST).
- Adults of Māori and Pacific ethnicity and adults living in the most deprived areas were more likely to have elevated levels of the liver enzyme gamma glutamyl transference (GGT).
- There was no change in liver enzymes between 2008/09 and 2014/15.