Characteristics of DSP recipients

This section examines the demographic characteristics and income-support attributes of Disability Support Pension (DSP) recipients aged 16–64 in 2018.

Age and sex

DSP recipients are typically in older age groups:

  • more than half (54%) are aged 50–64
  • 39% are aged 25–49
  • 7% are aged 16–24.

Almost 1 in 10 (8%) people aged 50–64 receive DSP. People in this age group are 3 to 5 times as likely to receive this payment as those aged 25–49 and 16–24 (as at 29 June 2018) (Figure 1).

Males were more likely to receive DSP than females—4.6% and 3.9% respectively.

Relationship (partner) status

The vast majority (78%) of DSP recipients aged 16–64 reported their partner status as single (79% for males and 77% for females). This proportion declined with age, from 97% for those aged 16–24 to 85% for 25–49 and 71% for 50–64.

Indigenous Australians

As at 29 June 2018, 47,300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16–64 were receiving DSP. This equates to 10% of the total Indigenous population in this age group receiving DSP, compared with 4.1% for Other Australians in this age group (Figure 1).

After controlling for differences in the age structures of the Indigenous and Other populations, Indigenous Australians were 3.1 times as likely as Other Australians to receive DSP.

Remoteness area

As at 29 June 2018, people aged 16–64 living in Inner regional and Outer regional areas were more likely to receive DSP (6.4% and 6.3% respectively) than those living in:

  • Major cities (3.6%)
  • Remote areas (5.4%)
  • Very remote areas (4.8%) (Figure 1).

Primary medical condition

For DSP reporting, the medical condition with the highest impairment rating determines which primary medical condition is recorded for a recipient.

The most common primary medical conditions of DSP recipients aged 16–64 as at 29 June 2018 were:

  • psychological or psychiatric conditions (36%)
  • musculoskeletal and connective tissue conditions (20%)
  • intellectual or learning conditions (16%) (Figure 2).

The most common primary medical conditions vary by age. For those:

  • aged 16–24—intellectual/learning conditions were the most common condition (49%) followed by psychological or psychiatric conditions (32%)
  • aged 25–54—psychological or psychiatric conditions (42%) were far more common than intellectual/learning conditions (19%)
  • aged 55–64—musculoskeletal and connective tissue conditions (32%) were more common than psychological or psychiatric conditions (29%) and intellectual/learning conditions (5.3%).

Earning an income while receiving DSP

People receiving DSP who report income from work, investments, superannuation and/or substantial assets, may have their benefit payments reduced, resulting in a part-rate payment.

This income test is designed so that, at low incomes, an individual will not have their benefit payment reduced, but once past a threshold, the payment will decrease with increasing income. Income support recipients are required to report earnings from all sources.

About 1 in 7 (14%) DSP recipients aged 16–64 received a part-rate payment as at 29 June 2018. Overall, less than 1 in 10 (8.0%) declared earnings as at 29 June 2018.


People receiving DSP tend to be long-term income support recipients. In 2018, almost 4 in 5 (80%) of DSP recipients aged 16–64 had been on the same payment for at least 5 years, and 1 in 2 (50%) for 10 or more years. This contrasts with other income support payments. In 2018, for example, 33% of Newstart Allowance recipients aged 16–64 had been on the payment for less than 1 year, and only 20% for at least 5 years (including 3.4% for 10 or more years).

Alternative text for Characteristics of DSP recipients

Figure 1

Bar chart showing the proportion of 16-64 year olds who received the disability support pension (DSP), in 2018. The reader can select to display the chart by age group, including 16-24, 25-49 and 50-64 years, by sex, by Indigenous status, by remoteness, including major cities, inner regional, outer regional, remote and very remote, and by duration on DSP, including less than 1 year, 1-2 years, 2-5 years, 5-10 years and 10+ years. The chart shows people living in inner regional areas are more likely (6.4%) to receive DSP than those living in major cities (3.6%). Back to figure 1

Figure 2

Bar chart showing the proportion of disability support pension (DSP) recipients with five categories of medical conditions, in 2018. The reader can select to display the chart by age group, including 16-24, 25-54, 55-64, 65+ and all ages, and by sex. The chart shows people, aged 16-24, receiving DSP are more likely (49%) to have an intellectual or learning disability than those aged 55-64 (5%). Back to figure 2