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Medical Health Aged Care

New survey research exposes lack of shingles awareness among at-risk Australians

GSK Australia 4 mins read

Issued: Thursday 22 February 2024 – Melbourne, Australia

  • Nearly all Australians over the age of 50 carry the inactive virus (varicella zoster virus) that causes shingles from a previous chickenpox infection.1-3
  • Media personality and campaign ambassador of Shingles Awareness Week, Deborah Knight, shares her personal experience of shingles to help raise awareness.


Ahead of Shingles Awareness Week (26 February to 3 March), new research commissioned by GSK* which surveyed 300 Australians has revealed that Australians aged 50-79 have limited understanding of shingles. Shingles misconceptions and knowledge gaps have been identified through two surveys: the GSK Australia survey and the GSK global Misconceptions Survey.4-5

The survey*, conducted by GSK Australia, shows that while 62% of people perceive the impact of this disease as 'extremely negative', only 14% believe they are extremely likely to be personally at risk of shingles in their lifetime. 

Shingles can be a painful and potentially debilitating condition and about one in three people will develop it in their lifetime.2,3 Shingles Awareness Week aims to increase understanding of the impact of shingles and address common misconceptions surrounding shingles. 

Shingles is a viral infection that is caused by the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox earlier in life.2,3 Those who have had chickenpox already carry the virus that causes shingles and nearly all adults aged 50 years and older carry this inactive virus, with about one in three adults expected to develop shingles in their lifetime.1-3   

News presenter, media personality and campaign ambassador, Deborah Knight, shares her story to encourage Australians aged 50 and over to understand their shingles risk this Shingles Awareness Week.

Deborah knows first-hand the pain and impact of the disease after she had shingles in early 2022.[i]  

"It started with intense pain in my lower back, followed by a rash with sensitive blisters on my face. Shortly after these symptoms began, I saw my doctor who confirmed I had shingles,” said Deborah. I live a really active lifestyle, so it was confronting to need my husband and son to help me stand up due to the pain,”

Before I was diagnosed, I didn’t know much about shingles and the impact it could have. I’d thought it was a disease that affected people much older than me. After experiencing it myself, I encourage all Australians aged 50 and over to speak to your doctor about your risk of shingles.”

Leading expert, Professor Tony Cunningham, Director of the Centre for Virus Research (WIMR) and Professor for the Faculty of Medicine & Health at the University of Sydney, suggests Australians over the age of 50 to consider their shingles risk and understand more about the disease.

“If you've had chickenpox the virus can remain in your body, kept dormant by your immune system. As you age, there is a decline in your immunity that can leave you susceptible to the reactivation of the virus, and if this occurs, reactivation of the virus leads to shingles,” said Professor Cunningham.

“Shingles can be a painful disease that can impact your quality of life so being aware of the symptoms and not underestimating your risk is important. This Shingles Awareness Week discuss shingles with your doctor. Discuss it with your family, particularly with older members of your family who are more at risk and may not be aware of shingles.”

Further research commissioned by GSK** (which surveyed 3,500 people globally, of which 250 were from Australia), showed the majority of people surveyed (86%) underestimate or don’t know their risk of developing shingles, with over a quarter (26%) believing just 1 in 100 are likely to develop the disease.5 However, about one in three people will develop shingles in their lifetime.2,3

Additionally, just over a quarter (27%) of people surveyed believe shingles is “essentially harmless.” Shingles typically develops as a painful, itchy and blistering rash, on one side of the body or on the face. The pain can be described as burning, shock-like and sharp.6,7

More than half (55%) of people surveyed believe you can “catch” shingles from someone else with shingles and 50% believed you can “catch” shingles from someone with chickenpox. It is important to note that shingles cannot be transmitted directly from someone with shingles or chickenpox. Whilst the same virus is responsible for both diseases, the initial infection leads to chickenpox and the virus remains dormant until reactivation later, causing shingles.2,3  

Misconceptions identified through GSK's surveys bring an Australian perspective to misconceptions identified in an earlier global survey across 22 non-Australian countries.8

To help reduce the impact on people’s lives and the disruption to everyday activities that shingles can cause, Australians aged 50 years and over should speak to their healthcare professional and learn more about the signs, symptoms and risk factors for shingles.  

For more information about shingles, speak to a healthcare professional and visit


Media enquiries

Maya Ivanovic
Palin Communications
0403 354 305

GSK enquiries

Angela Hill
Head of Communication
0466 514 894

The Shingles Awareness Week campaign is sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline Australia Pty Ltd (GSK).

About GSK 

GSK is a science-led global healthcare company. For further information please visit 

*About the GSK Australia survey

On behalf of GSK, Ipsos Healthcare conducted an online survey among 300 Australian-based participants (aged 50-79 years old) who chose to take part in the survey between 31 July and 9 August 2023. Participants were all screened to match national proportions based on region, gender and working situation. Respondents not open to receiving vaccinations that help prevent infectious diseases were excluded. Respondents who work in or have a close family member who works in either market research or the pharmaceutical industry were excluded. The sample is not nationally representative, only indicative.

**About the GSK Global Misconceptions Survey

The Shingles Misconceptions Survey was an online survey of 3,500 adults aged 50-85 years old, conducted between 16 August 2023 and 18 August 2023 by Pollfish, Inc, on behalf of GSK (except for Japan where it was conducted by IPSOS on behalf of GSK). The survey was conducted across 12 countries (Australia, China, US, Germany, Brazil, Japan, UK, Italy, South Korea, India, Canada and Portugal), in nine languages, with 250 respondents in each country, except for 500 respondents in US and India. Data was collated from 18 questions covering shingles awareness and misconceptions with all participants agreeing to participate in full transparency on both the source of the survey commissioning, and to the use of their anonymised data.


  1. Gidding HF, MacIntyre CR, Burgess MA, Gilbert GL. The seroepidemiology and transmission dynamics of varicella in Australia. Epidemiology and Infection 2003;131:1085-9.
  2. CDC. Shingles. Available at: (accessed January 2024). 
  3. Health Direct. Available at: (accessed January 2024). 
  4. IPSOS Shingles Awareness Survey August 2023. GSK Data on File 2023 REF-219944.
  5. GSK global Misconceptions Survey (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Portugal, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States), Pollfish on behalf of GSK. 18 August 2023. Data on File REF-219066.
  6. Kim HJ, et al. Subgrouping patients with zoster-associated pain according to sensory symptom profiles: A cluster analysis. Front Neurol. 2023 Feb 17;14:1137453.
  7. Katz, J., et al. (2004). Acute pain in herpes zoster and its impact on health-related quality of life. Clinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, 39(3), 342–348.
  8. Esther Paek, Robert Johnson; Public Awareness and Knowledge of Herpes Zoster: Results of a Global Survey. Gerontology 1 January 2010; 56 (1): 20–31. 

[i] These symptoms represent only one patient’s experience of shingles. Each individual’s experience and symptoms of shingles may vary.

Contact details:

Maya Ivanovic
Palin Communications
0403 354 305

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