In 2018, 4.6% of Australians (1.1 million people) had psychosocial disability. Of these:
- 85.5% had at least one other disabling condition
- 38.8% had a profound limitation
- 24.1% experienced discrimination, up from 21.5% in 2015.
This article uses data from the 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) to examine the prevalence of psychosocial disability in Australia
In 2018, 4.6% of Australians (1.1 million people) had psychosocial disability. Of these:
In 2018, of the 4.4 million Australians with any disability over one-quarter (26.0%) had psychosocial disability:
People with Psychosocial disability includes all those who reported:
These conditions must have lasted, or be expected to last, for six months or more.
Other disabling condition (other disability) includes any other condition (excluding those listed in the psychosocial disability definition above) which cause a limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted or is likely to last for at least six months and restricts everyday activities.
The rate of psychosocial disability generally increased with age, with similar prevalence rates for males and females except in the youngest and oldest age groups:
The pattern of psychosocial disability across age was similar in both 2015 and 2018, though there has been a small change among females aged 35-44 years (3.4%, down from 4.5% in 2015).
There have been no significant changes among men of any age group between 2015 and 2018.
Psychosocial disability prevalence varied between Australia's states and territories:
The ACT had the largest increase among the states and territories (5.6%, up from 3.5% in 2015), driven in part by an increase in psychosocial disability among those aged 45-64 years.
|State or territory of usual residence||'000||%||RSE of Estimate||Age standardised rate(a) %||%||Age standardised rate(a) %|
|New South Wales||338.8||4.3||4.7||4.1||4.2||4.0|
|Australian Capital Territory||23.2||5.6||11.1||5.8||3.5||3.5|
a. Age standardised rates are calculated to remove the effects of different age structures when comparing populations over time. For more information see the glossary.
* Estimate has a Relative Standard Error (RSE) between 25-50% and should be used with caution.
People with psychosocial disability have one or more psychosocial impairments which cause limitations or restrictions in their everyday activities. Of the 1.1 million people with psychosocial disability:
Most (85.5%) people with psychosocial disability also reported having one or more other impairments or restrictions, that is, another disability in addition to their psychosocial disability. Of the 1.1 million people with psychosocial disability:
A person with psychosocial disability may have a number of long-term health conditions, including those that contribute to their psychosocial disability, as well as other unrelated conditions. Of the 1.1 million people with psychosocial disability:
Long-term health condition - a disease or disorder that has lasted, or is likely to last, for six months or more. The SDAC collects information about long-term health conditions and through a series of screening questions, determines whether they restrict a person’s ability to complete everyday activities. People whose long-term conditions limit their activities are identified as having disability.
People with psychosocial disability generally report more severe limitations than those with other disability.
Of the 1.1 million Australians with psychosocial disability:
Excludes those with no specific limitation or restriction. For more information see glossary.
The prevalence of profound or severe limitation among people with psychosocial disability varies by age, following a similar, though more pronounced, pattern to those with other disability. Among people with psychosocial disability:
Profound limitation means the person is unable to do or always needs help with, at least one of the core activities of self-care, mobility and/or communication. See ‘Core activity limitation’ in glossary.
Severe limitation means the person sometimes needs help with a core activity task and/or has difficulty understanding or being understood by family or friends or can communicate more easily using sign language of other non-spoken forms of communication. See ‘Core activity limitation’ in glossary.
While most (87.4% or 994,600) people with psychosocial disability lived in households, one in eight (12.7% or 144,000 people) lived in cared-accommodation, including hospitals and aged care facilities. (For more information see the Glossary.)
The remaining analysis in this article focuses on people with psychosocial disability living in households only unless otherwise specified.
Many people with disability require assistance (or experience difficulty) with one or more aspects of daily living. Of the 994,600 people with psychosocial disability (living in households), the majority (94.9% or 943,400) needed assistance or experienced difficulty with at least one activity of daily life. People with psychosocial disability most commonly needed assistance or experienced difficulty with:
Given many people with psychosocial disability had one or more coexisting disabilities, their need for assistance or experience of difficulty may not always be due to their psychosocial disability alone.
In 2018 there were 836,800 people (living in households) who reported that they needed assistance with at least one activity of daily life:
People with psychosocial disability may receive informal assistance from one or more family members or friends.
Of the 724,800 people with psychosocial disability (living in households) who received informal assistance, the most common providers of assistance were a:
Parents of people with psychosocial disability were the most common informal care providers of assistance with tasks such as:
In contrast, partners of people with psychosocial disability were the most common informal care providers for most other tasks including:
Formal assistance can come from a range of sources, and people can receive formal care from more than one provider. Of the 546,300 people with psychosocial disability (living in households) who received formal assistance, the most common providers of assistance were:
Government organisations most commonly provided formal assistance with:
In contrast, private commercial organisations most commonly helped with:
A person who needs assistance with an activity may or may not receive the help they need. Of the 836,800 people with psychosocial disability (living in households) who needed assistance:
These results varied with level of core activity limitation or restriction.
*Proportion of those with profound or severe core activity limitation whose needs were not met has a high margin of error and should be used with caution.
Of all people with psychosocial disability (living in households and cared accommodation), more than half (57.4%) reported using aids or equipment because of their condition(s).
Almost one-third (30.0%) used aids to assist with oral communication, up from 26.6% in 2015. Other common activities for which aids or equipment were used included:
There have been some increases in the educational attainment of people with psychosocial disability. Among those aged 15 years and over (living in households), 55.2% had completed Year 12 (or equivalent) or higher, up from 51.8% in 2015. This was largely driven by increases for those with a profound or severe limitation (increasing from 43.0% to 48.7%).
Whether a person with psychosocial disability (aged 15 years and over, living in households) completed year 12 or higher varied by disability status:
Of the 212,800 people with psychosocial disability aged 5 years and over (living in households) who were studying, over two-thirds (68.9%) experienced difficulties at their school or educational institution due to their condition, compared with 41.5% of those with other disability. The main difficulties reported by people with psychosocial disability were:
Over half (60.9%) the students with psychosocial disability reported that they received educational support or special arrangements, compared with 36.4% of those with other disability. The most common support or special arrangements for those with psychosocial disability were:
People with psychosocial disability were less likely to be working than those with other disability. Of all people with psychosocial disability aged 15-64 years (living in households):
Excludes all people who have a psychosocial disability, regardless of whether they also had another disability
People with psychosocial disability were more likely than those with other disability to report employment restrictions because of their disability:
With lower levels of labour force participation compared with those with other (or no) disability, people with psychosocial disability of working age (15-64 years) who were living in households were more likely to rely on government pensions and have lower incomes. Among those with psychosocial disability, the main sources of income reported were:
In contrast, 28.2% of those with other disability and 7.0% of those with no disability received a government pension or allowance as their main source of income.
Of people with psychosocial disability (aged 15-64):
Discrimination results below refers to unfair treatment received because of disability in the previous 12 months.
People with psychosocial disability were more likely to experience discrimination because of their disability than those with other disability. Of people with psychosocial disability aged 15 years and over (living in households):
*Estimate for people with psychosocial disability has a high margin of error and should be used with caution.
The most common sources of discrimination for people with psychosocial disability were:
People with psychosocial disability were more likely to avoid situations because of their disability. Of those aged 15 years and over (living in households):
The most common situations or places avoided by people with psychosocial disability were:
People with disability may qualify for support from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Overall, the 2018 SDAC estimated that around 211,000 people with disability were receiving an NDIS funded package at the time of the survey.
Of the 1 million people identified as having psychosocial disability in the 2018 SDAC (living in households), one in eight (124,400 people, or 12.5%) reported they were receiving an NDIS package. Of these, 90.3% had at least one other disabling condition and therefore their NDIS participation may or may not be related to their psychosocial disability.
In interpreting these results, it is important to note the following:
For more information see www.ndis.gov.au.
Prior to 2015, the SDAC collected information about psychological disability, which was narrower in scope than psychosocial disability. For more information on previous collections see ABS cat. no. 4430.0 – Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015 - Psychosocial Disability. For time series comparisons two data cubes have been included with this release, one containing psychosocial disability data and another with corresponding psychological disability data.