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Open Access Research

Time trends in socio-economic inequalities for women and men with disabilities in Australia: evidence of persisting inequalities

Anne M Kavanagh1*, Lauren Krnjacki1, Andrew Beer2, Anthony D Lamontagne1 and Rebecca Bentley1

Author Affiliations

1 Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Level 3, 207 Bouverie St, 3010 Parkville, Vic, Australia

2 School of Social Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Ground Floor, Napier Building, 5005 Adelaide, SA, Australia

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International Journal for Equity in Health 2013, 12:73  doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-73

Published: 29 August 2013

Abstract

Introduction

The socio-economic circumstances and health of people with disabilities has been relatively ignored in public health research, policy and practice in Australia and internationally. This is despite emerging evidence that the socio-economic circumstances that people with disabilities live in contributes to their poorer health. Compared to other developed countries, Australians with disabilities are more likely to live in disadvantaged circumstances, despite being an economically prosperous country; it is therefore likely that the socio-economic disadvantage experienced by Australians with disabilities makes a significant contribution to their health. Despite the importance of this issue Australia does not routinely monitor the socio-economic inequalities for people with disabilities. This paper addresses this gap by describing time trends in socio-economic conditions for Australians with and without disabilities according to the severity of the disability and sex.

Methods

Cross-sectional analyses of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers were carried out at three time points (1998, 2003 and 2009) to estimate the proportions of women and men (aged between 25 and 64 years) who were living on low incomes, had not completed year 12, were not in paid work, living in private rental and experiencing multiple disadvantage (three or more of the indicators).

Results

People with disabilities are less likely to have completed year 12, be in paid work and are more likely to be living on low incomes and experiencing multiple disadvantage. These conditions worsened with increasing severity of disability and increased or persisted over time, with most of the increase between 1998 and 2003. While women with milder disabilities tended to fare worse than men, the proportions were similar for those with moderate and severe/profound disabilities.

Conclusion

People with disabilities experience high levels of socio-economic disadvantage which has increased or persisted over time and these are likely to translate into poorer health outcomes. A large proportion experience multiple forms of disadvantage, reinforcing the need to tackle disadvantage in a coordinated way across sectors.

People with disabilities should be a priority population group for public health. Monitoring socio-economic conditions of people with disabilities is critical for informing policy and assessing the impact of disability reforms.

Keywords:
Disability; Time trends; Socio-economic disadvantage; Gender