Living with a disability in Australia is frequently challenging, as access to education, health care, employment, buildings, and transport are still crucial and vexing issues.
Knowing how many Australians are living with some form of disability and how it affects them should help everybody understand the myriad ways how their living experience differs.
You will find the essential disability facts and figures in Australia below.
Let’s take a look at some of the most revealing disability statistics available.
Ten Key Disability Statistics and Facts
- Nearly one in six Australians have some sort of disability
- 50% of those aged 65 and over are disabled
- One in three of the disabled population have a severe or profound disability
- Only one in four adults with disability experience very good or excellent health
- Autism currently affects one in 70 Australians
- 44% of the disabled population in Australia can’t find a job due to their disability
- One in ten disabled people experience some disability discrimination
- One in five experience problems of inadequate communication when seeing health professionals
- The proportion of disabled children increased to 7.7% in the last decade
- 50% of those with disability aged 5 and over have a schooling or employment restriction
General Statistics on Disability in Australia
1. What percentage of the population has a disability?
There are 4.4 million Australians living with some form of disability, accounting for 17.7% of the total population. This is the total number, including children and retirees, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. All in all, one in six Aussies lives with disability.
2. Types of disability in Australia.
Three out of four disabilities (77%) are physical. The rest of the disabled population in Australia (23%) live with a primary form of disability which is mental or behavioral. The most common types of disability affect mobility, hearing, vision, and cognition. Disabilities are categorized based on the way they are sustained and whether they are short or long-term.
3. What causes disability?
ABS data indicates that the most common cause of disability is unknown, meaning the disorder “just came on” (21%), followed by disease, illness, or inherited factors (15%), and accidents and injuries (12% ).
One in eight individuals with disabilities was injured as a result of an accident or injury. The injuries occurred on the road (30%), at work (29%), at home (18%), and sporting venues (7.6%). According to ABS disability research, five Australians sustain a spinal cord injury every week, while ten to fifteen Australians suffer a major brain injury.
4. One in three people with disabilities are severely disabled.
The disability population is diverse and changing. About a third (32%) of disabled people in Australia have a severe or profound disability. That amounts to roughly 1.4 million people or 5.7% of the Australian population.
Overall, females are slightly more likely to have a profound or severe disability (6%) than males (5.5%).
5. 1 in 70 Australians has autism.
Generally, about 1% of the Australian population is on the autism spectrum. However, the figure is now considered closer to 1 in 70 due to a broadening of autism criteria and progress in detecting autism.
Autism statistics in Australia show that four in five living with autism are men.
6. The prevalence of disability increases with age.
The longer we live, the more likely we are to develop some form of disability. Approximately one in eight (13%) people under the age of 65 experience disability, increasing to every other person (51%) for those 65 and older.
Although the total number of people with disabilities in Australia has increased in the last decade (from approximately 4.0 million in 2009), the prevalence rate has actually declined (from 18.5% in 2009 to 17.7% in 2018).
7. 21% of Aussies left their job due to some form of disability.
(Australian Bureau of Statistics)
While 46% of workers retired because they reached the required age, nearly a quarter of Australian workers left their job due to illness, injury or disability, making it the second most common reason for retirement.
8. One in seven people with disabilities use a mobility aid.
About half of those with disabilities use some aid or equipment. Approximately 60% of people with disabilities need help with at least one core activity. According to AND data, one in six people (17.1%) use a mobility aid, and only 4.4% of those with disability in Australia use a wheelchair.
9. How many of those with disabilities are dependable on others?
Profound or severely disabled people may need assistance with everyday self-care, mobility, or communication activities at times or all of the time. Around 30% of the people with disability in Australia living in households need health care help. Property maintenance is required by 27%, while 24% need help with cognitive or emotional tasks. Support is also frequently required with household chores (23%), mobility (23%), and transport (21%).
10. People with disabilities are more likely to have poorer general and mental health.
Based on self-reported data, significant indicators show the state of people with a disability and health inequalities in Australia. Only 24% of adults with disability experience very good or excellent health, compared to 65% of those without. Self-reported levels of psychological distress are high or very high with 32% of disabled adults, as opposed to 8% of adults without a disability.
People with Disability and Carers in Australia
11. Disability demographics across Australia.
Due to differences in demographic structures, disability prevalence rates vary across Australia’s states and territories. According to data by Statista, New South Wales had the largest number of people living with disabilities in Australia in 2018, about 1.3 million. In comparison, the Northern Territory was home to only about 20,500 people with disabilities.
12. Prevalence of disability increases with age.
One in eight (12%) people under the age of 65 have some form of disability, compared to every other person (50%) for those 65 and older. This suggests that the longer we live, the more likely we are to sustain a disability. Looking at the Australian population in detail, 7.6% of children aged 0-14 have a disability, as opposed to 9.3% of those aged 15–24 and 13% in the 15-64 age group.
13. The level of disability varies among age groups.
Extreme or profound disability increases with age. It affects 6% of males and 3% of females aged 0–14 years, as opposed to 3.6% of males and 3.3% of females aged 15–24 years. Extreme or profound disability affects 3.2% of Australians aged 15–64 years and as much as 15% of men and 20% of women over the age of 65.
14. Disability in Australia does not differ significantly by gender.
We see how disability prevalence varies by age, but the latest ABS statistics indicate there isn’t a great deal of gender difference in disability after childhood. Disability affects 9.5% of males and 5.7% of females aged 0–14 years. Similarly, among those aged 15–24, disability affects 9.2% of males and 9.5% of females.
Disability affects 13% of men and women aged 15–64, compared to 49% and 50% respectively in the age group 65 and over.
15. Aboriginal peoples experience disability at a higher rate than non-indigenous Australians.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations have higher rates of disability than the non-Indigenous population in Australia. Children under the age of 14 are more than twice as likely as non-Indigenous people of the same age to have some type of disability. The factor increases to 2.7 times for the population aged 35–54 compared to non-Indigenous people of the same age.
Particular concerns are hearing loss and intellectual disability. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children under 15 years are 3.4 times more likely to be deaf than the general population, while Aboriginal Australians as a whole are almost four times more likely to have an intellectual disability than the general population.
16. Housing affordability is a concern for people with disabilities.
Age, extent of disability, and whether the disabled person lives in a household as a dependent, all affect the tenure type of people with disabilities.
An overview of the figures regarding housing for people with disabilities in Australia tells us that:
- Home ownership is highest in disabled people aged 65 and over
- Australians with severe or profound disability are less likely to own their home (56%), compared to 67% of people with other disabilities
- People with severe or profound disability are more likely to rent (32%) and live rent-free (9.2%), as opposed to 27% and 4.6% respectively for people with other disabilities.
- The most common household relationship for young people with disabilities (ages 15–24) is living in a household as a dependent student (40%)
- 56% live with a spouse or partner, compared with 67% of the population without disability
- 99% (or 2.4 million) of those aged 0–64 live in households, while the remainder live in care facilities – dwellings
17. Number of carers in Australia
In 2018, there were 861,600 primary caregivers and 1.79 million non-primary caregivers in Australia. Available figures reveal that there are approximately 2.65 million informal carers in Australia, some 10.8 % of the Australian population. Females are more likely to be carers than males, with 12.3% of all females providing care.
Of note, nearly 10% of carers (235,300 in all) were under the age of 25.
Education and Employment Statistics for People with Disability in Australia
18. Students with disabilities represent 7.3% of all domestic undergraduates.
Students with disabilities face barriers to accessing and participating in higher education in Australia. Just 17% of people with disabilities have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 30% of the population without disabilities in the 15-65 age group.
People with disabilities are more likely to have attained a Certificate level certification than those without disabilities (28.4% and 22.5%, respectively).
19. One in ten school students have a disability.
In Australia, 10% of school students (ages 5–18) have some form of disability, while 5.4% have a serious or profound disability. The majority (89%) of children with disabilities attend primary or secondary school.
20. People with disabilities experience lower rates of employment.
There are 2.1 million disabled Australians of working age and disability employment statistics show how their figures compare to the general Australian population. In the 15-64 age group, those with disabilities have a lower labor force participation and higher unemployment rates (53.4% and 10.3%) than people without disabilities (84.1% and 4.6%, respectively).
21. One in ten employed people with disabilities is underemployed.
The figures show that 10% of employed working-age people with disabilities are underemployed, compared to 6.9% of those without disabilities. Furthermore, one in four employed people with disabilities aged 15-24 would like to work more hours.
22. 44% of the disabled population in Australia can’t find a job due to their disability.
A document by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reveals that the majority of unemployed working-age people with disabilities report at least one trouble finding work, the most common reason being their condition (44%). This is followed by having too many candidates for open positions (25%), not having the necessary qualifications or education (23%), or sufficient work experience (18%).
23. What are the most common work positions of people with disabilities?
The latest data of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations lists the most common occupation of people with disabilities in Australia:
- 22% are professionals
- 14% are clerical and administrative personnel
- 13% are technicians and trade workers
- 12% are workers
The distribution of occupations for people with severe or profound disability is as follows:
- 25% are labourers
- 21% are clerical and administrative workers
- 15% are professionals
- 8% are technicians and trade workers
24. Nine in ten employed people with disabilities do not require additional help.
The majority of employed (88%) and unemployed (80%) working-age people with disabilities do not need extra assistance from their employer to work. Additionally, 83% of employed working-age people with disabilities do not need time off from work due to their condition.
Child Disability Statistics
25. Children’s disability numbers in Australia are increasing.
According to an ABS report, 7.7% (or approximately 357,000) of children aged 0–14 had some form of disability. This is an increase from 2012 when there were 6.9% (295,900) disabled children.
At 3.7%, the prevalence of disability in infants, toddlers, and preschoolers (0-4 years old) is the lowest across all ages. This figure rises to 9.6% in school-aged children (5-14 years old).
26. Of all children, 4.5% had profound or severe disability.
According to the ABS data, almost 4.5% or 209,300 of all children had profound or extreme disability, while 1.6% or 72,800 had moderate or mild disability. Boys were twice as likely as girls to have serious or profound limitations (6% or 143,800 compared to 3% or 67,200).
Children with disabilities were most likely to need assistance with cognitive or emotional tasks (59.3%), followed by communication (38.2%), mobility (36.1%), self-care (32%), and health care (27.9%).
27. Almost half of people with disabilities have a schooling restriction.
While 89% of school-age children (5–18 years) with disabilities in Australia attend school and many pursue further education, 48% of those living in a household face schooling or employment restrictions.
28. Inclusive education and supporting students with disabilities in schools.
In 2019, one in every five (19.9%) Australian school students received an adjustment due to disability, according to a NCCD report. Inclusive education and helping students with disabilities in schools and classrooms is a priority for all educators in Australia.
The Cost of Disability in Australia
29. What is the main source of income for people with disabilities?
While most people with disabilities over 15 have some source of income (95%), it is more likely to be from income assistance like disability support pension and NDIS than salary. The latest data by AIHW shows that some 757,000 people receive a disability support pension, 90% of which are aged 16–64. Significantly, 41% of the working-age population with a disability is permanently unable to work due to their health, but those who do work do not earn enough money.
30. Families with disabilities have a lower level of personal income.
The statistics reveal that households with at least one person with disability are generally more likely to have a lower level of income than those without.
- 38% of households with a disabled member fall in the low household income bracket, compared to 18% of households without a disabled member.
- 29% of households with a disabled child have a low level of weekly household income, compared to those without a disabled child (25%).
- A high level of household weekly income is held by 21% of households with a disabled child, compared to 32% of non-disabled households.
31. Difficulties and costs of health services for people with disability.
In Australia, people with a disability under 65 face cost-related problems when looking for medical help.
- 28% of people with disabilities delay or cancel a necessary visit to the dentist because of the cost.
- 7.6% of people with disabilities delay or cancel a necessary visit to the doctor because of the cost.
- 3.6% of people with disabilities delay or cancel going to the hospital because of the cost.
32. Expenditures regarding the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The 2018-19 budget projected $16.69 billion in government spending on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), but only $12.9 billion was actually spent. Although the NDIS currently has 400,000 members, the government revealed a significant underspend of $3.78 billion.
Disability Problems and Rights
33. The Australian health and disability care landscape.
Government-funded specialist disability support services are mostly delivered through the NDIS or the National Disability Agreement (NDA). The majority of citizens who receive care under NDA are transitioning to NDIS, as it is implemented across Australia. Medicare also doesn’t cover home nursing for disabled individuals.
34. Barriers experienced by people with disability.
The current figures on disability difficulties and barriers indicate:
- A third of customers with disabilities are treated less favourably than those without
- A third of those with challenges in mobility or communication have difficulty accessing buildings or facilities
- About 17% have difficulty using public transport
- 12% have difficulty accessing medical facilities
- One in ten experience disability discrimination
- One in five seeing three or more health professionals for the same health condition experience problems caused by inadequate communication
- 3.5% experience discrimination by health staff
35. The mortality rate is higher among people with disabilities.
According to the NDIS report, mortality rates were highest among people with disabilities seeking residential accommodation assistance (1,300 deaths per 100,000) or other types of housing assistance (1,500 deaths per 100,000).
People with brain injuries and primary neurological disabilities had the highest crude mortality rate (1,900 per 100,000). In contrast, those with severe learning/attention disorders and autism had the lowest (76 and 66 per 100,000 people, respectively).
Whether congenital or caused by an injury, living with a disability can be difficult. These disability statistics in Australia reveal the everyday situation and barriers facing Australians who lead lives with some impairment or disability.
To reiterate, the Australian population is aging and the number of disabled people increases as a result. After pointing out some of the discrimination in terms of employment, education, and health care that those with disabilities experience, we can see that there is plenty of room for improvement in Australia’s welfare system.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
- Australian Network on Disability
- NDIS Commission
- People with Disability Australia