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released: 30 Sep 2011 author: AIHW media release

This bulletin is the second in a series about health of people with disability. It examines the use of health services among Australians with disability based on national population health survey data.

ISSN 1446-9820; ISBN 978-1-74249-206-3; Cat. no. AUS 140; 28pp.; Internet only

Summary

Australians with severe or profound disability are extensive users of professional health services. This high use is associated with a high prevalence of multiple long-term health conditions, and comorbidity of mental disorders and physical conditions (AIHW 2010). Severe or profound disability is strongly related to the use of health services, even after taking into account multiple health conditions and comorbidity of mental and physical conditions. This may be partly related to the level of functional impairments that increase the likelihood of needing and seeking assistance from the health-care system.

This analysis is based on the data from the 2007–08 National Health Survey and the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Because of the data limitations (Box 1), the focus of this analysis is on people aged 15–64 years with severe or profound disability, defined by the ABS surveys as ‘sometimes or always requiring personal help or supervision with the core activities of self-care, mobility and communication’.

The use of health services

Compared with people without disability, people aged 15–64 years with severe or profound disability were:

  • 10 times more likely to have check-ups with general practitioners (GPs) at least once a month (29% versus 3%)
  • 3.5 times more likely to consult specialist doctors in the 12 months before the survey period 2007–08 (56% versus 16%)
  • 5 times more likely to consult both specialist doctors and other health professionals in the 12 months before the survey period 2007–08 (41% versus 8%).

The high use of health professional services was particularly related to services provided by specialist doctors, occupational therapists, and social workers or welfare workers.

When comorbidity of significant long-term health conditions was controlled for, among people aged 15–64 years with three or more conditions, 63% of those with severe or profound disability consulted both specialist doctors and other health professionals, compared with 27% of those without disability. Of people with comorbidity of mental disorders and physical conditions, 58% of those with severe or profound disability consulted both specialist doctors and other professionals, compared with 26% of those without disability.

The use of health services by those with mental disorders

The 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing covers people aged 16 to 85 years. During the 12 months before the 2007 survey, among all people aged 16–64 years with mental disorders, people with severe or profound disability were more likely than those without disability to:

  • access health services (including hospital admissions) for mental health (59% versus 24%)
  • consult health professionals (including GPs) for mental health (56% versus 24%)
  • consult health professionals (including GPs) 5 or more times for mental health (31% versus 12%)
  • consult mental health professionals (41% versus 15%)
  • consult GPs for mental health (32% versus 15%).

Of all people aged 16–64 years who had comorbidity of mental disorders and any physical conditions, people with severe or profound disability were more likely than those without disability to:

  • access health services (including hospital admissions) for mental health (59% versus 21%)
  • consult health professionals (including GPs) for mental health (56% versus 21%)
  • consult mental health professionals for mental health (42% versus 12%).

Recommended citation

AIHW 2011. The use of health services among Australians with disability. AIHW bulletin no. 91. Cat. no. AUS 140. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 29 May 2016 <http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737420117>.

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