4446.0 - Disability, Australia, 2003  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 06/05/2004   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All


This publication contains preliminary results on disability from the 2003 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers. Final and more comprehensive results are expected to be published in September 2004 in Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings, Australia, 2003 (cat. no 4430.0).

The statistics shown in this publication provide a summary of disability prevalence in Australia. As the results are preliminary they may be subject to change as further processing of the data is undertaken.


As estimates have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals.


As the estimates in this publication are based on a sample, differences over time and between sub-populations may or may not be statistically significant. That is, for some of the statistics presented in this publication that may be different for different sub-populations or time periods presented, the size of the associated sampling errors means that it cannot be stated with any confidence that the estimates represent any real difference between the sub-populations or time periods. For further information on sampling error see the Technical note at the end of this publication. Standard errors for the original estimates contained in this publication are in tables T1, T2, T3 and T4 of the Technical note.

Changes in the proportion of the population in cared accomodation between 1998 and 2003 may have had an impact on disability status, particularly for older age groups. For further information on this issue and other factors that may affect interpretation of results see paragraphs 37-44 of the Explanatory Notes on page 12.


ABS surveys draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated; without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics ACT 1905.


For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or Ken Black on Canberra (02) 6252 7430.



This publication focuses on preliminary results relating to disability from the 2003 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC). Final survey data, with more detail and a wider range of variables is expected to be released in September 2004. The publication also includes some comparisons with results from the previous survey in 1998.


The 2003 SDAC estimates that one in five Australians (3,951,000 or 20%) had a disability. This rate was the same for males and females. The rate increased with age, reaching 81% for those aged 85 years and over. The age-standardised disability rates for total males, females and persons showed little change between 1998 and 2003 and the pattern across age groups was very similar in these two years.

The 2003 SDAC found that one in seventeen people (5.9%) had a profound or severe level of core activity limitation (i.e. they needed help with one or more self-care, mobility or communication activities), a slightly smaller proportion than in 1998 (6.4%). However, the rate for persons aged 85 years and over dropped more substantially, from 65% in 1998 to 54% in 2003, with the decrease more marked for males than females.

The pattern of prevalence of profound or severe level of core activity limitation differed across age groups from that of the overall disability population. There was a gradual increase in the rate for age groups 0-4 years (2.8%) through to 65-69 years (9.4%) but it then increased sharply to 54% of those aged 85 years and over. This contrasted with the overall disability rate which increased steadily from 4% of 0-4 year olds to 41% of 65-69 year olds and 81% of those aged 85 years and over.

ALL PERSONS, Disability status, 1998 and 2003
Graph: ALL PERSONS, Disability status, 1998 and 2003


People with a disability were less likely to have completed a higher educational qualification than those without a disability. In 2003, one in five people aged 15-64 years living in households who had no disability had completed a bachelor degree or higher, compared to one in eight people (13%) with a disability.


Employment-related findings, for people aged 15-64 years living in households, from the 2003 SDAC include:

  • those with a profound level of core activity limitation had a much lower labour force participation rate (15%) than people without a disability (81%)
  • people with a disability had a higher unemployment rate (8.6%) than those without a disability (5.0%)
  • people with a disability who were employed were more likely to work in a part-time job (37%) than those who were employed and did not have a disability (29%).