Sex and age

The prevalence of disability generally increases with age (Figure 1). This means the longer people live, the more likely they are to experience some form of disability.

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But there is some good news, with the disability-free life expectancy of Australians (that is, the estimated years we can expect to live without disability) increasing over time (see Disability-free life expectancy for more information).

Overall, the likelihood of experiencing disability does not vary much by age between males and females (Figure 1). But when looked at by severity of disability, differences can be seen among people in older age groups. In particular, older women (aged 65 and over) (22%) are more likely than older men (15%) to have severe or profound disability (ABS 2016).


ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2016. Microdata: Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2015. ABS cat. no. 4430.0.30.002. Canberra: ABS. AIHW analysis of detailed microdata in DataLab.

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Figure 1

Line graph showing the prevalence of disability for males, females and all people by 5 year age groups. The reader can select to display the graph by disability status and by year, including 1998, 2003, 2009, 2012, and 2015. The graphs show less than 5% prevalence at 0-4 years, rising to around 15% by 40-44 years then a more rapid rise to around 80% at 85+ years. Back to figure 1