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LIVING WITH A DISABILITY
Four million people in Australia (18.5%) were reported as having a disability in 2009, with males and females being reported as having similar overall rates of disability (18% and 17% respectively). For 5 to 14 year olds, rates of disability and rates of profound or severe core activity limitation for males were 11% and 7% respectively, close to double those for females in the same age group (6% and 3% respectively).
Disability is defined as any limitation, restriction or impairment which restricts everyday activities and has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months. Of these everyday activities, being able to care for oneself (self care), being mobile (mobility) and being able to communicate with others (communication) are regarded as essential everyday tasks and are therefore called core activities. People classified as having a profound or severe core activity limitation are those who require help some or all of the time with at least one of these core activities.
Disability can occur at any stage of a person's life and, depending on when it occurs, may affect an individual's participation in a range of everyday activities.
The age standardised disability rate in 2009 was 18.1% for males compared to 17.3% for females. The age standardised disability rates have fallen by two percentage points since 2003 for both males and females (down from 20.4% and 19.1% respectively). Much of the decrease in the prevalence of disability during this period, for both males and females, has been due to the decline in the proportion of people disabled by physical health conditions, such as asthma and heart disease. (Endnote 1)
PROFOUND OR SEVERE CORE ACTIVITY LIMITATION
The age standardised rate of profound or severe core activity limitation in 2009 was much the same for males (5.3%) and females (5.7%). These rates declined from 5.8% for males and 6.5% females in 2003.
Disability by age
The prevalence of disability is strongly correlated with age, with rates of disability increasing to 90% for males and 88% for females aged 90 years and over in 2009. There are not many differences between the proportion of males and females reporting disability across age groups in 2009, except for the 5-14 year age group, where the proportion of males reporting disability (11%) was almost double the proportion of females in that age group (6%). As with disability prevalence, the proportion of people reporting profound or severe core activity limitation generally also increased with age.
While the prevalence of disability has decreased from 2003 to 2009 for both males and females, the decrease was particularly noticeable in some age groups. In 2003, 9% of both males and females reported disability in the 15-24 year age group, whereas in 2009 the proportions fell to 7%. Similarly, 22% of both males and females reported disability in the 45-54 year age group in 2003, compared with 17% of males and 19% of females in the same age group in 2009.
The proportions of females reporting profound or severe core activity limitation also declined across all age groups between 2003 and 2009. For males during this period, the proportions with profound or severe core activity limitation declined in most age groups, and there were no age groups with statistically significant increases.
In 2008, the age standardised disability rate for both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and females aged 15 years and over and living in non-remote areas only was nearly 60%, which was higher than that for the total Australian population (nearly 20%). The age standardised rate of profound or severe core activity limitation for both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and females aged 15 years and over (living in non-remote areas) was also higher (10% for both males and females) than that of the total Australian population ( 5% for males and 6% for females).
As with the total Australian population, prevalence of disability increases with age for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in non-remote areas.
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2009 (cat. no 4430.0), <www.abs.gov.au>.
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