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The 2012 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (cat. no. 4430.0) estimated that 4.2 million Australians, or 18.5% of the population, had a disability (Endnote 1). After removing the effects of different age structures, the age standardised rate was 17.4% of the population had a disability in 2012. This compares to 17.7% in 2009 and 19.8% in 2003.
Disability is defined as any limitation, restriction or impairment which restricts everyday activities and has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months. Of these everyday activities, being able to care for oneself (self care), being mobile (mobility) and being able to communicate with others (communication) are regarded as essential everyday tasks and are therefore called core activities. People classified as having a profound or severe core activity limitation are those who require help some or all of the time with at least one of these core activities.
Disability can occur at any stage of a person's life and, depending on when it occurs, may affect an individual's participation in a range of everyday activities.
The age standardised disability rate was 17.6% for males compared to 17.3% for females in 2012. These rates have fallen by approximately three percentage points since 2003 for males and approximately two percentage points for females (down from 20.4% and 19.1% respectively).
Profound or severe core activity limitation
The age standardised rate of profound or severe core activity limitation in 2012 was higher for females (6.0%) than males (5.4%). These rates have decreased for females (from 6.5%) and remained steady for males (at 5.8%) since the survey was conducted in 2003.
The prevalence of disability increases as people age. For example, rates of disability increased from 11.2% for males and 11.7% for females aged 35-44 years to 89.1% for males and 84.6% for females aged 90 years and over in 2012. There were not many differences between the proportion of males and females reporting disability across age groups in 2012, except for the 5-14 year age group where the proportion of males reporting disability (11.2%) was almost double the proportion of females in that age group (6.2%). As with disability prevalence, the proportion of people with profound or severe core activity limitation also increased with age.
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2012 (cat. no 4430.0), <www.abs.gov.au>.
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