Health & disability status


According to the 2014–15 National Health Survey (NHS), nearly three-quarters (73%) of older Australians (aged 65 and over) reported they had good, very good or excellent health. Two in 5 (39%) older people self-assessed their health as being very good or excellent [1].

In the NHS, women were more likely than men to report their health as being excellent or very good in all older age groups. The exception was people aged 85 and over: men were slightly more likely than women to report that they had excellent or very good health (Figure 1). For men and women, the likelihood of rating their health as fair or poor increased with age; 25% of people aged 65–74, and 30% of people aged 75–84, assessed their health as being fair or poor, compared with 34% of people aged 85 and over [1]. The oldest age group also had higher levels of disability (see Disability).


The 2015 ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers reported that 50% of men and 52% of women aged 65 and over had some form of disability [2] (Figure 2). This proportion was higher for those aged 85 and over, with 4 in 5 experiencing disability (78% of men and 80% of women). In 2015, 15% of men and 22% of women aged 65 and over experienced disability as a severe or profound core activity limitation (that is, sometimes or always needing help with self-care, mobility or communication). Again, this was higher for those aged 85 and over—38% for men and 56% for women.

Over time, the proportion of severe and profound core activity limitations in older Australians has generally reduced, especially for those aged 85 and over, with similar reductions for both men and women between 1998 and 2015 (19 and 13 percentage points, respectively) (Figure 3).


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2015. National Health Survey: first results, 2014–15—Australia. ABS cat. no. 4364.0. Canberra: ABS.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016. Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings, 2015, ABS cat. No. 4430.0. Canberra: ABS