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People with severe or profound disability rely up to 10 times as heavily on health services, such as general practitioners, as Australians without a disability, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, The use of health services among Australians with disability, shows that the high use of health services among people with disability is linked to a high prevalence of multiple long-term health conditions, in particular the combination of mental and physical health conditions.

‘The high use of services prevails even after taking into account the multiple health conditions, with or without mental health conditions,’ said AIHW spokesperson Mr Sean Ackland.

‘This suggests that the level of functional impairment, in addition to the presence of multiple health conditions, increases the likelihood of needing and seeking assistance from the health care system.’

The report shows that, in the 12 months before the data was collected, people with severe or profound disability were 3.5 times as likely to have consulted a specialist doctor, and 5 times as likely to have consulted both a specialist doctor and other health professionals as people without disability.

The report also shows that of all people with mental disorders aged 16–64 years, those with severe and profound disability were 2.5 times as likely as those without disability to access health services (including hospitals) for mental health problems, and twice as likely to consult health professionals (including GPs) for mental health problems.

Similarly, of all people with a combination of a mental disorder and any physical condition aged 16–64 years, those with severe or profound disability were around 3 times as likely to access health services (including hospitals), consult health professionals (including GPs), or consult mental health professionals, for mental health problems.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 30 September 2011

Further information: Mr Sean Ackland, AIHW, tel. (02) 02 6244 1051, mob. 0422 307 321

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer (02) 6244 1032

Full report: The use of health services among Australians with disability