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Growing, ageing: SA revealed in new report


South Australians are older, sicker and less religious than residents in any other mainland Australian state, latest census data has revealed.

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Released this morning, the Australian Bureau of Statistics data from the 2021 census shows the number of people counted as usual residents of South Australia (SA) was 1.8 million, up from 1.7 million in 2016.

About 1.4 million people – almost 80 per cent of the state’s population – now live in Greater Adelaide.

The median age for people from SA has been on the rise for the past 50 years.

In 1971, the median age was 27 years. It rose to 40 years in 2016 and again to 41 years in 2021 – three years above the national median age of 38.

The median age was higher in SA than in the other five mainland states, with NSW the next oldest on 39 and Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia all 38 years.

The territories were the most youthful; the median age in the NT was just 33 years followed by 35 in the ACT, but Tasmania’s median age was the highest at 42.

South Australia is also the sickest of the mainland states, with 42.1 per cent of SA respondents reporting at least one long-term medical condition. This was above the national average of 39.8 per cent and higher than any other mainland state.

The 2021 census for the first time listed 10 long-term health conditions including asthma, cancer, heart disease, mental health conditions, diabetes and stroke.

South Australia had a higher percentage than the national average in every category except for kidney disease, which was on par with the national figure.

Courtesy ABS


The number of people in South Australia identifying as having no religion jumped by more than 200,000 since the 2016 census to 806,165.

This represented 45.3 per cent of the population, well above the national average of 38.4 per cent and higher than any other mainland state.

Christianity remains the nation’s most prevalent religion, with 43.9 per cent of people identifying with the denomination.

However, the figure has fallen from more than 60 per cent a decade earlier.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

In the 2021 Census, 43,000 people in South Australia identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, making up 2.4 per cent of the SA population. This was an increase from 34,000 counted in 2016, and lower than the Australian percentage of 3.2 per cent in 2021.

Country of birth

Most people in SA were born in Australia, but the proportion of people  born overseas has increased over time.

In 1971, 23.8 per cent of people were born overseas. This slightly decreased to 22.9 per cent in 2016 but climbed back to 24.1 per cent in 2021.

In 2021, the top five countries of birth in SA were: Australia (71.5 per cent), England (5.3 per cent), India (2.5 per cent), China (1.4 per cent) and Vietnam (1.0 per cent).


In 2021, the majority of people in SA only spoke English at home (77.6 per cent), down from 78.2 per cent in 2016.

The next most common languages used were Mandarin (1.8 per cent), Italian (1.3 per cent), Greek (1.2 per cent),  Vietnamese (1.2 per cent) and Punjabi (1.1 per cent).


The median weekly income was $734 for South Australian individuals and $1,889 for families in 2021. These increased from 2016 when the incomes were $600 for individuals and $1,510 for families.

Household and families

Courtesy ABS

South Australian households have shrunk significantly over the past 50 years.

In 2021, the average number of people who lived in each household in SA was 2.4, a decrease from 3.3 people in 1971.

In 2021, 68.0 per cent of households were family households. This was a slight decrease from 68.4 per cent in 2016.

The most common type of family in SA was families with no children. In 2021, 41.0 per cent of families were couples with no children and 16.6 per cent were one-parent families.


Courtesy ABS

The 2021 census counted 723,000 occupied private dwellings across South Australia.

This was up from 674,000 in 2016 and almost double the 342,000 occupied private dwellings in SA in 1971.

In 2021, most people lived in houses (78.0 per cent), rather than units, apartments or other dwelling types.

This was slightly up from 77.8 per cent in 2016.

The proportion of people who lived in flats or apartments also increased from 6.6 per cent in 2016 to 6.8 per cent.

In 2021 68.4 per cent of households in SA were homeowners (owned outright or with a mortgage). This was a slight increase from 67.5 per cent in 2016.

Australian statistician David Gruen said the latest census data revealed key insights into the nation.

“Every stat tells a story, and today we are sharing a glimpse into the stories of almost 25.5 million Australians,” he said.

“The census was conducted at an unprecedented time in Australia’s history and provides a unique snapshot of the population during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is different from previous censuses.”

 – With AAP

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