1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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At some point in life, most Australians will experience disability themselves or know someone in their immediate family or circle of friends who has a disability. Although the immediate effect of having a disability is individual and personal, the impact may be felt by other family members or friends who provide care for the person involved. People with a disability often need external support services and this has direct implications for government and non-government agencies which provide these services.

Around 18% of people reported having a disability in 2009, where disability is defined as any limitation, restriction or impairment that restricts everyday activities and has lasted or is likely to last for at least six months. Examples range from loss of sight that is not corrected by glasses, to arthritis that makes dressing difficult, to advanced dementia that requires constant help and supervision.

There was a strong relationship between age and disability, with rates of disability increasing as people aged. In 2009, 88% of people aged 90 years and over had a disability compared with 3.4% of children four years and under. Overall, 18% of all males and 19% of all females had a disability.

Disability can be categorised by levels of core activity limitation in the areas of self-care, mobility or communication. In 2009, 3.5 million people had a specific limitation or restriction, representing 87% of all people with a disability. Around 1.3 million people had a profound or severe core activity limitation (i.e. they reported sometimes or always needing help with core activity tasks).

While rates of severe/profound and mild/moderate disability followed similar patterns for males and females, aged 15–65 years, there were interesting differences across younger and older age/sex groups (graph 11.14). For example, the rate of profound or severe core activity limitation for boys aged 5–14 years (6.6%) was more than double that of girls of the same age (3.0%), while women aged 90 years and over had a higher rate of profound or severe core activity limitation (75%) than men of the same age (58%).

Around the age of 80 years, sharp decreases in rates of mild or moderate disability and commensurate increases in rates of severe or profound disability suggest that the health of people with mild or moderate core activity restrictions worsens around this time and they move into the severe or profound categories (graph 11.14). The overall rate of profound or severe limitation declined slightly from 6.3% in 2003 to 5.8% in 2009.

11.14 ALL PERSONS WITH A DISABILITY, Level of core activity limitation, By age and sex


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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.