Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: First Results

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Contains the first results from the 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers

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First release

Key findings

This publication is the first release of data from the 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC). It presents key information about disability prevalence in Australia as well as data about older Australians (those aged 65 years and over). Data is also included about people with disability who reported that they had experienced discrimination. Future releases will provide greater detail about these groups and important information about carers. All rates are non-aged standardised unless otherwise stated.

Key figures

In 2015:

  • There were 4.3 million Australians with disability, that’s nearly one in five people (18.3% of the total population).
  • After removing the effects of different age structures, the age standardised disability rate for all people was 17.0%. This compares to 17.4% in 2012 and 17.7% in 2009.
  • Of the 15.4 million Australians living in households who were of working age (15 to 64 years), there were over two million people with disability, that’s one in seven people.
  • Just over half (50.7%) of Australians aged 65 and over reported living with disability.

Disability prevalence rates

In 2015:

  • The proportion of people reporting disability increases from 12.1% of 35–44 year olds to 85.4% of those aged 90 and over.
  • In addition, there were differences in disability prevalence rates across Australia's states and territories, due in part to the differing age structures. For example, Tasmania and South Australia, which have older populations, recorded the highest disability prevalence rates (25.2% and 22.0%, respectively), for all people living in households.
  • In comparison, Northern Territory, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, which have younger populations, recorded the lowest disability prevalence rates (11.3%, 14.0% and 15.8%, respectively), for all people living in households.

Profound or severe disability

People with profound or severe disability have the greatest need for assistance with core activities—communication, mobility or self-care. For more information see the Glossary.

In 2015:

  • Some 5.8% of all Australians had a profound or severe disability. After removing the effects of different age structures, the age standardised rate was 5.5%. This compares to 5.8% in 2012 and 5.5% in 2009.
  • The age-standardised rates of profound or severe disability for males and females were similar (5.2 % and 5.6%, respectively).
  • Of the 1.4 million people with a profound or severe disability, almost half were aged 65 years and over (654,600 people or 47.8%).

Labour force participation

In 2015, for those aged 15 to 64 years, living in households:

  • The labour force participation rate for people with disability (53.4%) has remained steady since the survey was last conducted in 2012 (52.8%); this rate was considerably lower than for people without disability (83.2%).
  • Lower proportions of people with disability were employed full-time (27.0%) compared to those without disability (53.8%).
  • Similar to 2012, Australians with disability were more likely to be unemployed compared to those without disability (10.0% compared with 5.3%).

Older Australians

In 2015:

  • There were 3.5 million older Australians (those aged 65 years and over), that’s nearly one in seven people (15.1% of the total population).
  • Around 1.8 million older Australians reported living with disability (7.7% of the total population).
  • Some 654,600 older Australians had profound or severe disability (18.5% of older Australians).

Experience of discrimination for people with disability

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 initial release of SDAC data is information about Australians with disability who were living in households, aged 15 years and over, and their experience with discrimination because of their disability.

In the last 12 months:

  • 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.
  • Rates of reported discrimination were similar for men (8.3%) and women (8.9%).
  • Young people with disability (aged 15-24 years) were more likely to report the experience of discrimination (20.5%) than those aged 65 years and over (2.1%).
  • The source of discrimination was an employer for almost half of those aged 15 to 64 years with disability who were unemployed (46.9%) or employed full-time (46.2%) and just over one third (34.6%) of those employed part-time, at the time of the survey.
  • 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.
  • Older people (aged 65 and over) were less likely to avoid situations because of their disability (20.1%) than younger people.

About the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers

The 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) is the most recent in a series of comprehensive national surveys conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, following similar surveys in 1981, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2009 and 2012. The survey was designed to:

  • measure the prevalence of disability in Australia
  • measure the need for support of older people (those aged 65 years and over) and those with disability
  • provide a demographic and socio-economic profile of people with disability, older people and carers compared with the general population
  • estimate the number of and provide information about people who provide care to people with disability, long-term health conditions and older people.

The survey was conducted in all states and territories and across urban, rural and remote areas of Australia (other than very remote areas). Data collection was in two parts: the establishment component, which was conducted from 25 May to 31 July 2015; and the household component, which ran from 5 July 2015 to 19 December 2015. Accommodation within establishments included hospitals, nursing homes, aged care hostels, cared components of retirement villages and other ‘homes’, such as group home for people with disability. The survey reached around 63,500 people from over 25,500 private dwellings, and a further 11,700 people from 1,000 establishments.

This publication contains key results from the survey, including disability prevalence rates, data about older Australians, as well as new data on disability discrimination. Information is presented for Australia and the states and territories.

Tables of estimates and proportions, and their corresponding relative standard errors (RSEs) and Margins of Error (MOEs) are available in Data Cubes (spreadsheet format) and can be accessed in the Data downloads section of this publication.

The second release from the SDAC is scheduled for the latter half of 2016. This will include a breakdown of key demographic variables, comparisons over time and detailed information about carers and older people. This will be followed by the release of microdata products.

Data quality and comparability

When interpreting the results in this release, it is important to take into account factors that may affect the reliability of the estimates. These factors are described in the Technical note.

Much of the content from the 2015 SDAC is comparable to previous surveys. However, when comparing 2015 results with 2012, users should be aware that some differences may exist due to changes in question methodology and scope. Factors impacting on the comparability of estimates over time are detailed in the Methodology.


For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

Data downloads

Data item list

Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: First results tables

Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Discrimination tables

Survey material

Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: prompt cards for household questionnaire, 2015

Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: household questionnaire, 2015

To view the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: cared-accommodation questionnaire, 2015 click here

History of changes

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Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4430.0.10.001

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