Diabetes and disability: impairments, activity limitations, participation restrictions and comorbidities

Disability Diseases Diabetes Australia
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This report explores the association between diabetes and disability-comprising of impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions-and its comorbidities. Using data from the 2009 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey of Disability Ageing and Carers (SDAC), it presents estimates of the number of people with diabetes and a disability.

In 2009, an estimated 827,020 people in Australia had diabetes. Of these, 43% reported that diabetes was the health condition causing them the most problems and 53% reported they had a disability.

People with diabetes and a disability

  • People with diabetes had a higher prevalence of disability than people without diabetes (age-standardised rates of 39%, compared with 17%) and were more likely to have a severe or profound core activity limitation than people without diabetes (age-standardised rates of 14%, compared with 5%).
  • The most common type of disability experienced by people with diabetes was restriction in physical activities or work (32% of people with diabetes).
  • Among all people with loss of sight, 17% reported having diabetes.

People with a disability caused by diabetes

  • Eleven per cent of people with diabetes (almost 90,000 Australians) reported they had a disability caused by diabetes.
  • Fifty-nine per cent of those with a disability caused by diabetes were receiving treatment or medication but were still restricted in everyday activities.

Participation restrictions and assistance received

  • Forty per cent of working-age people with diabetes and a disability said they were permanently unable to work, compared with 20% of people with a disability who did not have diabetes (using age-standardised rates).
  • People with diabetes and a disability were more likely to receive assistance than other people with a disability (age-standardised rates of 62%, compared with 51%).

Other long-term health conditions

  • Comorbidities were very common: 67% of people with diabetes aged under 60 and 91% of those aged 60 and over reported they had another long-term health condition.
  • Ten per cent of people with diabetes reported having had a stroke and more than 15% reported having heart disease.
  • People with diabetes reported higher rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, depression, vision loss and kidney-related disorders than people without diabetes.
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