Significant health gap remains between Australians with disability and those without disability

Australians with disability are still significantly more likely to report having poor health than those without disability, according to a new report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, Health status and risk factors of Australians with disability 2007–08 and 2011–12, shows that in 2011–12, half (51 per cent) of Australians aged 15–64 with severe or profound disability (that is, sometimes or always needing personal help with activities of self-care, mobility or communication) rated their health as ‘poor or fair’, compared with 6 per cent for those without disability.

“In 2007–08, 45 per cent of that same group rated their health as ‘poor or fair’, compared with 5 per cent for those without disability”, said AIHW spokesperson Mark Cooper-Stanbury.

In 2011–12, people aged 15-64 with severe or profound disability were twice as likely to smoke daily (31 per cent for those with severe or profound disability versus 15 per cent for those without disability) and 1.8 times as likely to start daily smoking before the age of 18 (41 per cent versus 23 per cent).

Almost half reported doing no physical exercise (46 per cent of people with severe or profound disability, versus 31 per cent for those without disability) and they were 1.7 times as likely as those without disability to be obese.

This group also had a higher prevalence of various types of long-term health conditions, and were 3.3 times as likely as those without disability to have 3 or more long-term health conditions (74 per cent versus 23 per cent).

“Half of people under 65 with severe or profound disability had mental health conditions, compared with 8 per cent for those without disability”, said Cooper-Stanbury.

Additionally, among people aged under 65 with a mental health condition, those with severe or profound disability were more likely than those without disability to acquire a mental health condition before the age of 25 (39 per cent versus 28 per cent).

People aged under 65 with severe or profound disability were 4 times as likely as those without disability to have arthritis. Among people aged under 65 with arthritis, half (49 per cent) of those with severe or profound disability acquired the condition before the age of 45, compared with 37 per cent for those without disability.

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