Disability Statistics Australia
Author: Australian Bureau of Statistics
Published: 2008-12-13 : (Rev. 2010-05-05)
Synopsis and Key Points:
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates that 3,958,300 people or 20% of the Australian population had a disability.
Main DigestIn 2003 the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimated that 3,958,300 people or 20% of the Australian population had a disability.
The ABS defined a disability as 'any limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months and restricts everyday activities'.
The ABS reported that a further 4,149,000 or 21% of the population had a long-term health condition that did not limit their everyday activities. The remaining 11,703,800 or 59% of the Australian population had neither a disability or a long-term health condition.
It was estimated that 1,238,600 people or 6.3% of the Australian population experienced disabilities with a 'profound or severe core activity limitation' i.e. they either always, or sometimes need assistance with self-care, mobility or communication. This total was made up of 677,700 people under 65 years of age and 560,900 aged 65 and over.
Main disability groups
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare used the ABS data to create estimates of the main disability groups in Australia, 2003.
Physical/diverse disabilities was the biggest group with 2,043,400 people under 65 and 1,307,200 people over 65 reporting one or more physical/diverse disabilities. Of these, 512,600 people under 65 and 538,500 people over 65 had a profound or severe core activity limitation.
It was estimated that 728,300 people under 65 and 768,000 people over 65 had one or more sensory/speech disabilities. Of these, 254,700 people under 65 and 325,100 people over 65 had a profound or severe core activity limitation.
A psychiatric disability was reported by approximately 722,100 people under 65 and 295,800 people over 65. It was estimated that 277,700 people under 65 and 215,100 people over 65 had a profound or severe core activity limitation.
An intellectual disability was reported by 436,200 people under 65 and 152,500 people over 65. Of these, 215,100 people under 65 and 135,900 people over 65 had a profound or severe core activity limitation.
Acquired brain injury was reported by 317,400 people under 65 and 120,900 people over 65. Of these, 99,900 people under 65 and 57,500 people over 65 had a profound or severe core activity limitation.
The Australian Association for Families of Children with Disability (AAFCD), using ABS data, estimated that 154,231 or 11.8% of South Australians aged 0-64 had a disability ranging from moderate or mild to profound or severe. They also estimated that 57,877 or 4.4% of South Australians aged 0-64 had a profound or severe disability i.e. one in every 25 people.
Disability among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
In the past it has been difficult to obtain adequate data on disability among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. However, in 2002 the ABS ran a multi-dimensional social survey, the National Aboriginal and Torres Islander Social Survey.
The ABS found that 102,900, or 37% of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over had a disability or long-term health condition. It was estimated that 21,800, or 8% of these people had a 'profound or severe core activity limitation' i.e. they either always, or sometimes needed assistance with self-care, mobility or communication.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2004. Disability, Aging and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2003 [online]. [Accessed 3rd April 2008]. Available from World Wide Web:
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2006. Disability and disability services in Australia: based on an extract of Australia's Welfare 2005. Canberra, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Australian Association for Families of Children with Disability (AAFCD). 2005. Disability counts 2005. National Noticeboard, Edition 17
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