Age profile of Australian church attenders

Results from the 2016 National Church Life Survey

More older attenders over time

The age profile of church attenders has been getting older over time.

In the 2001 National Church Life Survey, 21% of Australian church attenders were aged 70 years and over. By 2011 the proportion of attenders aged 70 plus had increased to 25% and by 2016 it had reached 29%.

Comparing the size of different age groups shows how younger attenders are under-represented in church life. In 2016, some 13% of church attenders were aged 15-29. Another 24% of churchgoers were aged 30-49. The largest age group in the church was 50-69 year olds (34% of attenders).

Ageing community, ageing church

Australia's population is ageing and life expectancy is increasing. The median age has increased from 23 years in 1901 to 38 years in 2016. It is predicted to rise to between 39 years and 41 years by 2026.

The age profile of church attenders is older than the wider Australian community. For example, the proportion of church attenders aged 60 and over (48%) is much higher than the proportion of people aged 60 and over in the general population (26%).

The chart below compares the age profile of three groups. Using Census data, the Australian population is compared with 'Census Christians', or people who indicated that they had a Christian religious affiliation in the 2016 National Census, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The third group are church attenders who took part in the 2016 NCLS.  It shows that each group has an older age profile than the previous group.

A comparison of person in the Australian population, person who indicated themselves as 'Christian' in the census and persons who indicated they regularly attend church in the 2016 NCLS.  Sources: 2016 ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016 National Church Life Survey Attender Survey from' Comparing church and community: a demographic profile' by NCLS Research, 2018. N.B. All figures are calculated on the population aged 15 years and over.

N.B. All figures are calculated on the population aged 15 years and over.

Ruth Powell, Miriam Pepper, Kathy Jacka
Data Sources:

Powell, R., Pepper, M., Hancock, N. and Sterland, S. (2017) 2016 NCLS Attender Survey [Data file]. Sydney: NCLS Research. 2016 Census of Population and Housing, Australian Bureau of Statistics.

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