Most common disabilities in Australia
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics more than 4 million Australians (18.5% of the population) are living with a disability. Disabilities are not only physical, they can also include intellectual, sensory and mental disability.
At Samaritans, we focus on the abilities of the individual, providing quality support to help achieve dreams. We also believe in the importance of raising awareness about the disabilities that many Australians face so that the best support can be provided.
Intellectual disabilities are most commonly identified in childhood. Developmental delays are often caused from conditions individuals are born with like autism or Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome – which affects around 1 in 1,100 births in Australia – is the most common form of intellectual disability. It is caused at conception and results in the child having one too many chromosomes, although no one has yet worked out why it happens. Intellectual disabilities can be mild or severe and at birth there’s no way of telling how much help someone will need during their lifetime.
Although physical disabilities can sometimes be present at birth, often they occur later in life because of an accident. Conditions that may be apparent at birth include multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis, while accidents can create brain or spinal injuries later in life. It’s thought that more than 15,000 Australian live with a spinal cord injury that reduces their freedom and independence. Most of these are caused by motor vehicle accidents (53%), while everyday accidents (such as falling from a ladder) account for 23% and sporting injuries another 13%.
Sensory disabilities affect the way we interact with the world, hindering our vision, hearing, smell, touch, taste or spatial awareness. Some people are born with these conditions, some are affected because of an accident while others develop them over time. People suffering from these disabilities can get help with things like hearing aids and seeing eye dogs.
A mental disability affects the way someone lives their life. Common examples include bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia. Around 3 million Australians are currently living with depression or anxiety, with 1 in 5 men and 1 in 3 women suffering at some point in their life. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide although research has shown that opening up about problems can have a positive effect.
Although disabilities can affect the way we live our lives the treatment and support for each condition gets better and better each year. Whether you’re a carer looking for support or someone who needs a little help themselves there are plenty of disability services in the Newcastle region and beyond that can help.