4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 1998  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/04/1999   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All


April 21, 1999
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)

ABS survey shows one Australian in five has a disability

In 1998, there were 3.6 million Australians (19%) with a disability, according to survey results released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The majority of these (87%) experienced specific restrictions in core activities, such as self-care, mobility or communication, or in their ability to participate in schooling or employment.

Most Australian with a disability (85%) identified physical conditions, including musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis, as the main condition causing their disability; the remainder (15%) identified mental or behavioural disorders.

The proportion of Australians with a disability has steadily increased since the ABS first conducted the survey in 1981. This is partly due to an ageing population. However, after adjusting for differences in the age distribution of the population (and for differences between surveys), the rate has steadily increased from 15% in 1981 to 19% in 1998.

As Australians grow older they are more likely to have a disability. The disability rate ranged from 4% of children under 5 years to 84% of people aged 85 or more. While the proportion of males and females with a disability was similar overall (around 19%), the pattern varied across age groups. For example, males had markedly higher rates of disability than females the same age for those who were young (0-14 years) or approaching older age (60-69 years) while the pattern was reversed for those aged 80-84 years.

In 1998, there were 2.3 million older Australians (aged 65 years and over). Over half (54%) had a disability. Older people's need for assistance with everyday activities increased with age regardless of whether or not they had a disability. Overall less than half (46%) needed assistance; increasing from 32% of those aged 65 to 74 years to 92% of those aged 85 or more.

Informal assistance was provided by 2.3 million Australians to those who needed help because of disability or ageing. A marked proportion of these providers (38%) were in the 35-54 year age range where caring responsibilities may involve children, partners and ageing parents. Of those providing informal assistance, 19% (450,900) were identified as primary carers who provided most help with personal activities to a person with a disability.

Details are in Disability, Ageing and Carers: A Summary of Findings (cat. no. 4430.0) available from ABS bookshops in all capital cities. Main features of the publication are available from this site.