Disability statistics - House with No Steps

Disability statistics

4.2 million Australians, or 18.5% of the population, have a disability.

Find a range of disability statistics and facts

Disability statistics

What is disability?

Disability is often defined as any limitation, restriction or impairment which restricts everyday activities and has lasted or is likely to last for at least 6 months [3]. However, disability can be defined in several different ways, depending on the context that the word is used. 

Disabilities can be very varied.  They can be physical, cognitive, intellectual, mental, sensory, or developmental. They can be present at birth or occur during a person’s lifetime, and can also be permanent or temporary.

Disability in Australia

  • 1 in 5 Australians have a disability. Of these, just under 1.4 million have severe or profound core activity limitation [3]
  • In 2099, it is estimated that approximately 4 million people will have a severe or profound disability in Australia – more than triple the current number [2]
  • 2.4 million people with disability need assistance with at least one broad area of activity [3]
  • 61% of people with a disability, and 47% of people with a profound core activity limitation reported that their needs were fully met [3]
  • Around one-third of Australian households include a person with disability [5]
  • Just over half of Australians aged over 65 and over live with a disability [5]

Incidence of disability

  • Every week, 5 Australians sustain a spinal cord injury [2] 
  • Every week 10 - 15 Australians sustain a severe brain injury [2]
  • Every 13 hrs, a child is born with cerebral palsy [2]
  • 1 in 1000 children born each year will have Down Syndrome [2]
  • Every 7 hrs, a child is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder [2]
  • Every 2 hrs, a child will be diagnosed with an intellectual disability [2]
  • 1 in 6 Australians are affected by hearing loss [3]

Disability and employment

  • Australians with disability are more likely to be unemployed compared to those without a disability (10.0% compared with 5.3%) [5]
  • 53% of people with a disability aged 15-64 yrs are currently employed, compared with 83% of people without a disability [5]
  • Australia ranks 21 out of 29 OECD countries for labour force participation of people with a disability [2]
  • 19% of people with a disability who are employed, work as professionals [1]
  • 36% of people with a severe or profound disability are employed [3]
  • People with a disability are more likely to run their own business, 13%, than those without a disability, 10% [1]

Disability and education

  • 36% of people with a disability aged 18-64yrs, have completed Year 12, compared with 60% of those without a disability [3]
  • 50% of school children with a disability receive additional support including tuition, and access to counsellors or support workers [3]
  • 25% of people with a profound or severe disability aged 15 – 64 have completed Year 12 [2]

Disability and the community

  • People with a profound disability are 9 times less likely to participate in activities outside the home [4]
  • Nearly 4 in 5 people with disability aged 15-64 years, participated in a cultural, recreational or sporting activity away from home in the previous 12 months (79%) [3]

Disability and financial circumstance

  • 45% of those with a disability in Australia are living either near or below the poverty line, more than double the OECD average of 22% [2]
  • People with a disability in Australia are 2.7 times more likely to be at risk of poverty than other OECD countries [2]


  • Almost 1 in 12 Australians with disability have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment because of their disability [5]
  • Young people with disability aged between  15 - 24 are more likely to report discrimination (20.5%) than those aged over 65 (2.1%) [5]
  • More than 1/3 of women and over 1/4 of men over 15 avoid situations because of their disability [5]


  • The average age of a primary carer is 55 years [5]
  • Almost 2.7 million Australians are carers (11.6%) [5]
  • More than 1/3 of primary carers are living with disability themselves [5]
  • The majority of carers are female, representing 68.1% of primary carers and 55.5% of all carers [5]

Childhood disabilities and developmental delays

  • 7% of children have a disability [1]
  • 10% children have a developmental delay
  • 52% of children with disabilities have a profound or severe core-activity limitation [3]
  • Boys aged 0-14 years are more likely to have a disability (8.8%) than girls (5.0%) [1]
  • Autism and related mental or behavioural disabilities are the most common disabilities amongst all children [1]
  • Sensory (sight and hearing), and speech disabilities are the most common disabilities amongst children aged 0-4 [1]
  • 66% of children with disabilities attend regular classes in mainstream schools [1]
  • Just 10% of chldren with disabilities attend ‘special’ schools [1]
  • Almost 80% of School principals reported not having enough resources to meet the needs of children with a disability [6]

Mental Health

  • 1 in 5 Australians have a mental illness [8]
  • Almost half (45%) Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime [8]
  • Women are more likely to have a mental illness than men (22% compared with 18%). However, men had twice the rate of Substance Use disorders (7.0% compared with 3.3%) [8]
  • The most common mental illnesses are depressive, anxiety and, substance use disorder [8]
  • More than 10% of people with a mental illness die by suicide within the first 10 years of diagnosis [8]

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics. Disability, Australia, 2009 (cat. no. 4446.0) and Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings, Australia, 2009 (cat. no. 4430.0).

[2] Price Waterhouse Coopers, 2011. 'Disability expectations - Investing in a better life, a stronger Australia'.

[3] Australian Bureau of Statistics. Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2012 (cat. no. 4430.0)

[4] General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2007 (cat. no. 4159.0)

[5] Australian Bureau of Statistics: Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015

[6] Australian Education Union 2015 State of Our Schools Survey

[7] Australia Bureau of Statistics. National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15

[8] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 4326.0, 2007

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