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4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Oct 2010  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/02/2011  Final
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Contents >> Disability >> Prevalence of disability


DISABILITY: PREVALENCE OF DISABILITY
This article is part of a comprehensive series released as The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.


KEY MESSAGES
  • Nationally, 50% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over had a disability or long-term health condition in 2008. Around one in twelve (8%) had a profound/severe core activity limitation.
  • In non-remote areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults were one and a half times as likely as non-Indigenous adults to have a disability or long-term health condition, and more than twice as likely to have a profound/severe core activity limitation.

This topic presents results from the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), which provides the most recent disability data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This topic covers:

PREVALENCE

Nationally (using the common criteria), half (50%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over (adults) had a disability or a long-term health condition in 2008 (Endnote 1). Around one in twelve (8%) had a profound or severe core activity limitation.

The proportion of people with a disability or long-term health condition in 2008 was similar for males (48%) and females (51%) and for those living in remote and non-remote areas (49% compared with 50%). Overall, rates of disability steadily increased with age, ranging from 35% of those aged 15–24 years to 80% of people aged 65 years and over (graph 2.1). Rates of profound/severe core activity limitation were also very high among this older age group (25% compared with 5% of those aged 15–24 years).

2.1 DISABILITY STATUS(a) BY AGE, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—2008
Graph: Disability status by age, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—2008
(a) As determined by the common (remote + non-remote) criteria. See Endnote 1.
(b) People always or sometimes needing assistance with at least one core activity of everyday living.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey. These estimates are also available for download in the Disability datacube.


Physical restrictions were the most common type of disability reported in 2008, affecting one-third (33%) of all adults and 84% of those with a profound/severe core activity limitation. Nearly one in five people (17%) had a sight, hearing or speech disability; 8% had a psychological disability and a further 8% had an intellectual disability. Males and females reported similar rates across all disability types except for psychological disability, which was more common among women (10% compared with 6% of men) (table 2.2).

2.2 DISABILITY TYPE(a) BY DISABILITY STATUS(b), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over—2008

Has profound/ severe limitation(c)
Total with a disability
All persons
Persons
Persons
Males
Females
Persons

%
%
%
%
%
Has a disability or long-term health condition
Sight, hearing, speech
41.2
34.2
(e)17.5
(e)16.6
17.0
Physical
83.6
65.5
(e)32.1
(e)33.1
32.6
Intellectual
27.2
15.4
(e)8.1
(e)7.3
7.7
Psychological
27.0
15.7
5.9
9.6
7.8
Type not specified(d)
70.0
49.0
22.0
26.6
24.4
Total
100.0
100.0
(e)48.5
(e)51.0
49.8
Has no disability or long term health condition
na
na
(e)51.5
(e)49.0
50.2
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

na Not applicable
(a) Proportions will not add to 100% as people could have more than one disability type.
(b) As determined by the common (remote + non-remote) criteria.
(c) People always or sometimes needing assistance with at least one core activity of everyday living.
(d) Includes a long term condition that requires treatment or medication (and that restricts everyday activities); or any other long term condition, such as arthritis, asthma, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, diabetes (sugar problems) or kidney problems that restrict everyday activities.
(e) Difference between males and females is not statistically significant.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey. These estimates are also available for download in the Disability datacube.


Sight, hearing and speech disabilities were slightly higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote areas (21% compared with 16% in non-remote), whereas both intellectual and psychological disabilities were more common among those in non-remote areas (9% compared with 4%, and 9% compared with 5% respectively). However there was no significant difference for physical disability (30% in remote compared with 33% in non-remote).

More than one-third (37%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults with a disability were a parent or guardian of a child aged 0–17 years. Women with a disability were more likely than men with a disability to have caring responsibilities for children (42% compared with 30%). Of all parent/guardians with a disability, one-third (34%) were living in a single-parent family.

Rates of disability were particularly high among those had been removed from their natural family. Around two-thirds (65%) of those who had been removed from their family had a disability in 2008, compared with 48% of those who had not been removed.


COMPARISONS OVER TIME

Between 2002 and 2008, there were some changes to the way disability status was collected in remote areas, which means that comparisons over time are limited to people living in non-remote areas and using the broader (non-remote) criteria only (Endnote 2). In non-remote areas in 2008, 51% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over had a disability or long-term health condition, similar to the rate reported in 2002 (53%). There was also no change in the number of people with a profound or severe core activity limitation (8% in both 2002 and 2008).


COMPARISONS WITH NON-INDIGENOUS POPULATION

The most recent disability data for the non-Indigenous population is available from the 2007–08 National Health Survey (NHS). The NHS disability module is based on the same broader criteria that was used for people in non-remote areas in the NATSISS, therefore the following analysis is limited to persons aged 15 years and over in non-remote areas only (using the broader (non-remote) criteria).

In non-remote areas in 2008, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were more likely than non-Indigenous people to have a disability or long-term health condition in every broad age group (graph 2.3). Although disability rates increased with age in both populations, the relative onset of disability for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people occurred much earlier than for non-Indigenous people. For example, the proportion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 45–54 years with a disability was just as high as that for non-Indigenous people aged 65 years or over (66% compared with 68%). This pattern was also evident among those with a profound or severe core activity limitation (graph 2.4).

2.3 HAS A DISABILITY OR LONG-TERM HEALTH CONDITION(a) BY INDIGENOUS STATUS, Persons in non-remote areas—2008
Graph: Has a disability or long-term health condition by Indigenous status and age, Persons in non-remote areas—2008
(a) As determined by the broader (non-remote) criteria.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2007–08 National Health Survey. These estimates are also available for download in the Disability datacube.


2.4 HAS A PROFOUND/SEVERE CORE ACTIVITY LIMITATION(a)(b) BY INDIGENOUS STATUS, Persons in non-remote areas—2008
Graph: Has a profound/severe core activity limitation by Indigenous status and age, Persons in non-remote areas—2008
(a) As determined by the broader (non-remote) criteria.
(b) People always or sometimes needing assistance with at least one core activity of everyday living.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2007–08 National Health Survey. These estimates are also available for download in the Disability datacube.


After taking age differences into account, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were around one and a half times as likely as non-Indigenous people to have a disability or long-term health condition (age-standardised rate ratio of 1.4) and more than twice as likely to have a profound/severe core activity limitation (age-standardised rate ratio of 2.2).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were more likely than non-Indigenous people to have disabilities of all types (table 2.5). This was the case for both males and females, except for sight, hearing and speech disabilities, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males reported similar rates to non-Indigenous males. Overall, the largest differences were for intellectual disabilities (age-standardised rate ratio of 3.2) and for psychological disabilities (age-standardised rate ratio of 2.6).

2.5 INDIGENOUS TO NON-INDIGENOUS RATE RATIOS(a) BY DISABILITY TYPE(b), Persons aged 15 years and over in non-remote areas—2008

Males
Females
Persons

Sight, hearing, speech
1.1
1.6
1.3
Physical
1.5
1.4
1.5
Intellectual
2.9
3.5
3.2
Psychological
2.8
2.4
2.6
Type not specified(c)
2.1
2.2
2.2
All persons with a disability or long-term health condition
1.4
1.5
1.4

(a) Indigenous to non-Indigenous rate ratios are calculated by dividing the age-standardised proportion of Indigenous people with a particular characteristic by the age-standardised proportion of non-Indigenous people with the same characteristic.
(b) As determined by the broader (non-remote) criteria.
(c) Includes a long term condition that requires treatment or medication (and that restricts everyday activities); or any other long term condition, such as arthritis, asthma, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, diabetes (sugar problems) or kidney problems that restrict everyday activities.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2007–08 National Health Survey. These estimates are also available for download in the Disability datacube.


ENDNOTES:

1. See the Measuring Disability topic for more information on the criteria used to determine disability status in remote and non-remote areas.

2. Additional criteria were used to identify people with disability in remote areas in 2008, meaning that the common (remote + non-remote) criteria is not strictly comparable between the 2002 and the 2008 surveys. As a result, analysis of comparisons over time have been been restricted to persons living in non-remote areas only (using the broader criteria). See the Measuring Disability topic for more information.



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