When it comes to the causes of a disability, it came be a never ending list, a few of the causes are:

  • In the womb – birth defect
  • In birth – lack of oxygen
  • After birth
  • Arthritis.
  • Back pain.
  • Heart disease.
  • Cancer.
  • Depression.
  • Diabetic
  • Movement/ locomotor disability
  • Mental Health
  • Genetic Disability
  • Communicable diseases
  • Injuries

For about 3 in 4 (77%) people with disability, their main form of disability (that is, their main condition or the one causing the most problems) is physical. This includes diseases of the:

  • musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (30%), such as back problems and arthritis
  • ear and mastoid process (8.4%), such as hearing loss and tinnitus
  • circulatory system (6.3%), such as heart disease and stroke
  • nervous system (6.7%), such as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis (ABS 2019b).

For the remaining 1 in 4 (23%), their main form of disability is mental or behavioural, including:

  • intellectual and developmental (6.5%), such as intellectual disability and autism
  • mood affective (3.8%), such as depression
  • dementia and Alzheimer disease (2.6%)

Causes of disability

The causes of disability are complex and often unidentified. The most common cause of disability is that the main condition ‘just came on’ (21%), followed by diseases, illnesses or hereditary conditions (15%) and accidents and injuries (12%).

Of the 1 in 8 people with disability who are disabled as a result of an accident or injury, the incident most commonly happened on the road (30%) or at work (29%), followed by at home (18%) and sporting venues (7.6%) (ABS 2019b).


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2019a. Disability, ageing and carers, Australia: summary of findings, 2018. ABS cat. no. 4430.0. Canberra: ABS.


ABS 2019b. Microdata: disability, ageing and carers, Australia, 2018. ABS cat. no. 4430.0.30.002. Canberra: ABS. AIHW analysis of TableBuilder data.