4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/10/2016   
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This publication presents information from the 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC). It follows the release of the First Results in April 2016, which are also included in this publication.

As part of this publication, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released a short podcast about the SDAC highlighting the key findings from 2015, and a video animation about Australia's carers. The podcast and video can be accessed from the links below, and the podcast transcript is available on the Downloads tab.

Link: 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers Podcast Link: 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers Video


The disability prevalence rate in Australia has remained relatively stable over time, with 18.3% of people reporting disability in 2015, and 18.5% in 2012 and 2009. In this survey, a person has disability if they report they have a limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months and restricts everyday activities. There are many different kinds of disability, usually resulting from accidents, illness or genetic disorders. Disability may affect a person’s mobility, communication or learning. It can also affect their income and participation in education, social activities and the labour force. The collection of information about people with disability is important for many reasons including the provision of appropriate services and support.

In 2015:

  • Almost one in five Australians reported living with disability (18.3% or 4.3 million people).
  • The majority (78.5%) of people with disability reported a physical condition, such as back problems, as their main long–term health condition. The other 21.5% reported mental and behavioural disorders.
  • More than half of those with disability aged 15 to 64 years participated in the labour force (53.4%), which is considerably fewer than those without disability (83.2%). These results are consistent with those in the 2012 SDAC.

For further information, please refer to the section on Disability.

Older people

The SDAC also collects information from older people (those aged 65 years and over) to determine how ageing impacts a person's life and experiences. Like many other developed countries, Australia has an ageing population. There were around 3.5 million older Australians in 2015, representing one in every seven people or 15.1% of the population. This proportion has increased from 14.3% in 2012, making it increasingly important to understand the characteristics and needs of older Australians.

In 2015:
  • Older Australians living in households were more active, with the proportion that participated in physical activities for exercise or recreation increasing from 44.5% in 2012 to 49.2% in 2015.
  • The majority of older Australians were living in households (94.8%), while 5.2% or one in twenty lived in cared accommodation such as nursing homes.
  • While the proportion of older Australians has increased, the prevalence of disability amongst them has decreased. In 2015, 50.7% of older people were living with disability, down from 52.7% in 2012.
  • Two-thirds of older Australians (67.3%) that reported their income lived in a household with an equivalised gross household income that was in the lowest two quintiles. This proportion has decreased from 74.6% in 2012.

For further information, please refer to the section on Older People.


Information about carers is another important component of the SDAC. In the survey, a carer is defined as a person who provides any informal assistance, in terms of help or supervision, to older people (aged 65 years and over) and those with disability. Assistance must be ongoing, or likely to be ongoing, for at least six months. A primary carer is the person who provides the most informal assistance to a person with disability with one or more of the core activities of mobility, self-care and communication. In this survey, primary carer information was collected for people aged 15 years and over.

The information collected provides an insight into many different characteristics of carers and how caring impacts on their lives. In 2015, almost 2.7 million Australians were carers (11.6%), with 856,100 people (3.7%) aged 15 years and over identified as primary carers. These patterns were similar to those in 2009 and 2012.

In 2015:
  • The average age of a primary carer was 55 years.
  • Over one-third of primary carers (37.8%) were living with disability themselves.
  • Females made up the majority of carers, representing 68.1% of primary carers and 55.5% of all carers.
  • For people aged 15 to 64 years, the labour force participation rate for primary carers (56.3%) and other carers (77.2%) was lower than for non–carers (80.3%).

For further information, please refer to the section on Carers.


The 2015 SDAC introduced a new disability discrimination module designed to estimate the prevalence of discrimination for those with disability and identify the nature of this discrimination. Included in this publication is information about Australians with disability who were living in households, aged 15 years and over, and their experience in the last 12 months with discrimination because of their disability.

In 2015:
  • Almost one in 12 Australians with disability (281,100 people or 8.6%) reported they had experienced discrimination or unfair treatment because of their disability.
  • Young people with disability (aged 15 to 24 years) were more likely to report the experience of discrimination (20.5%) than those aged 65 years and over (2.1%).
  • Over one-third (35.1%) of women and over one-quarter (28.1%) of men aged 15 years and over had avoided situations because of their disability.

For further information, please refer to the section on Disability.

Household characteristics

The SDAC captures information about individuals themselves and about the households in which they reside. This information provides some insight into the relationships that exist between people with disability or older people and their carers. In 2015, although just under one in five people reported having disability (18.3% of the total population), around one-third of Australian households contained a person with disability (35.9% or 3.2 million households). Almost half of those households contained a carer (16.5% of all households), of which just under half contained a primary carer (8.1% of all households).

Conceptual Framework: All households, by disability and carer status, 2015

Image: Conceptual Framework: All households, by disability and carer status, 2015
Source: ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings—2015

In 2015, for households containing someone with disability, the age of that person and their disability status can be related to the make–up of their household:
  • Where a household contained a child aged 14 years or less with disability, in almost three-quarters (74.2%) of instances a carer also lived in the household, compared with less than half (44.8%) of all households containing someone with disability aged 15 years and over.
  • Four in five households containing someone with a profound or severe limitation also contained a carer (80.0%), most commonly a primary carer (59.9%). In comparison, in households containing someone with a moderate or mild limitation, less than half contained a carer (41.1%) and only 14.9% contained a primary carer.

The 2015 SDAC also showed that while older people (aged 65 years and over) made up around one in seven of the Australian population (15.1%); just over one quarter of all households contain an older person (27.0%).

In those households containing at least one older person with disability, a considerable proportion contained a carer (41.9%), compared with 14.1% of households where the older person did not have disability.