Children's environmental health indicators

This section summarises the latest Environmental Health Indicators for children in New Zealand, for selected domains.

You can find specific information and factsheets about children's environmental health in the links to each indicator.  

Children and the indoor environment

Indicator Key findings

Household crowding

  • About one in seven children aged 0-14 years (15.9%) lived in crowded houses in 2013.
Second-hand smoke exposure
  • Around 29,000 children aged 0–14 years were exposed to second-hand smoke in the home in 2015/16.
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke for children has decreased considerably from 9.6% in 2006/07 to 3.2% in 2015/16.
  • Children living in the most deprived neighbourhoods (NZDep2013 quintile 5) were 18.1 times as likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke in the home than those in the least deprived areas.
Maternal smoking
  • Maternal smoking rates at two weeks postnatal have decreased from 13.7% in 2009 to 8.6% in 2020.
  • Māori mothers had higher smoking rates than other ethnic groups between 2009 and 2020. However, smoking rates among Māori mothers have declined from 32.3% in 2009 to 23.0% in 2020. 
  • Asthma hospitalisations in children aged 0–14 years have increased by more than 50% in 2021 after a substantial drop the previous year.
  • Asthma hospitalisations declined after COVID-19 lockdown periods in 2020 and 2021.
  • The highest asthma hospitalisation rates were in children 0-4 years, Pacific children, and children living in the most deprived areas.  
  • Asthma prevalence in children aged 2–14 years in 2020/21 has declined from previous years.
  • The prevalence of asthma has declined in children 2–4 years (6.0%) in 2020/21, the lowest since 2011/12.
  • Māori and Pacific children were more likely to have medicated asthma than non-Māori children and non-Pacific children, respectively.
Lower respiratory tract infections
  • Marked reduction in LRTI hospitalisations in 0–4 year olds coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.
  • The usual winter LRTI hospitalisation peak was down by 85% in 2020.
Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI)
  • 38 babies died from SUDI (0.6 per 1,000 live births) in 2018, down from 48 deaths (0.8 per 1,000 live births) the previous year.
  • Pacific and Māori babies had five times the rate of SUDI as European/Other babies in 2014–18. Babies of younger mothers (younger than 25 years) had higher SUDI rates than babies born to mothers in older age groups.
  • The SUDI rate for babies living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas (NZDep2013 quintile 5) was six times as high as babies in the least deprived areas (quintile 1).
Meningococcal disease 
  • The number of meningococcal notifications dropped from 67 in 2019, to 16 in 2020.
  • Meningococcal Group B continues to be the most dominant strain in children.
  • Infants (under 1 year -year-old) continue to have the highest rate of meningococcal disease since 2001. They had 35 times the rate of meningococcal disease as children aged 10–14 years in 2018–20.
  • The highest notification rates were in infants, Māori children, Pacific children, and children living in the most deprived areas.  

Children and transport

Indicator Key findings

Active transport to and from school

  • In 2020/21, less than half (43.1%) of children aged 5-14 years usually used active transport (such as walking and cycling) to get to and from school. 
  • There has been no significant change in the use of active transport among 5-14-year-olds in over 10 years, from 2006/07 to 2020/21.
Unmet need for GP services due to a lack of transport
  • In 2019/20, 1.6% of children aged 0-14 years had a medical problem but did not visit a GP due to a lack of transport, in the last 12 months. This is about 15,000 children.
  • There has been no significant change in the percentage of children with unmet need for a GP due to a lack of transport between 2011/12(3.0%) and 2019/20.
Road traffic injury deaths and hospitalisations
  • In 2016, 12 children aged 0-14 years died from traffic injury, the majority as vehicle occupants (8 deaths).
  • The mortality rate for traffic injuries for children remained mostly unchanged between 2010 and 2016.
  • In 2019, there were 269 hospitalisations for traffic injuries for children, most of which were for vehicle occupant injuries (56.5%) or pedestrian injuries (25.3%). 
  • The overall traffic injury hospitalisation rate for children aged 0-14 years has been stable from 2012 onwards.
  • Māori children had traffic injury mortality rates which were three times higher than those of children of other ethnicities and represented 52% of all traffic-related deaths between 2007–16.
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