Notes on the data: Disability and carers

Primary carers by sex and broad age group: 15-24, 25-64, 65+ and 15+ years, 2018 (modelled estimates)


Policy context:  Broadly speaking, primary carers are the main source of ongoing assistance to people in the community who are unable to adequately care for themselves because of a severe or profound restriction in performing core activities of daily living. This level of activity restriction can be associated with early- and late-onset disability and/or age-related frailty. The assistance received from a primary carer helps many such people to avoid or delay long-term care in an institutional setting [1].

Over 860,000 (4.4%) people in Australia are estimated to be primary carers providing informal assistance to people with a disability or older people in the 2018 Survey of Disability Ageing and Carers [2]. Primary carers were mostly females (618,880 females compared to 241,900 males) and aged 25 to 64 years (149,000 males and 464,300 females).


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Carers in Australia: assisting frail older people and people with a disability. (AIHW Cat. No. AGE 41). Canberra: AIHW; 2007.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2018. (ABS Cat. No. 4430.0). Canberra: ABS; 2019.

Notes:   These data form part of the information in the Social Health Atlas of people with disability, and their access to services. This data set is from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers; the associated data set is data from the 2021 Census (of the number of people providing unpaid assistance to people with a disability in households).

Modelled estimates

Modelled estimates were produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) by Statistical Areas Level 2 (SA2s) and were then grouped to produce Population Health Areas (PHAs) by the Population Health Information Development Unit (PHIDU). The ABS also published these estimates by Local Government Area (LGA).

The modelled estimates can be used for getting a picture of the likely distribution of people with the characteristics of interest, across areas. Users should not expect the modelled counts and proportions to be appropriate for every area. Some regions will differ in prevalence from modelled estimates because of local effects that are not captured by the models. The modelled estimates are a tool which when used in conjunction with an understanding of local area characteristics and their quality limitations, they can assist in making decisions on issues, such as the requirement for services, relevant to disability and aged care at the small area level.

Modelled estimates in this workbook are for usual residents, living in households in Australia, excluding foreign diplomats and their families. Areas were not published if more than 20% of their total population were living in very remote areas of Australia or Indigenous Communities. Areas with populations under 100 were also not published.

See the explanatory notes for more details on scope (e.g. inclusions/exclusions).

The ABS used a number of methods to measure the quality of the estimates, one of which is the relative root mean squared error (RRMSE) of the modelled estimates. The RRMSEs are included with the data. Users are advised that:

  • estimates with RRMSEs less than 0.25 are considered reliable for most purposes;
  • estimates with RRMSEs from 0.25 and to 0.50 have been marked (~) to indicate that they should be used with caution;
  • estimates with RRMSEs from 0.50 and to 1 are marked (~~) to indicate that the estimate is considered too unreliable for general use; and
  • those greater than 1 have been replaced with (≠) and the estimate confidentialised to indicate that the estimate is considered too unreliable for use.

Indicator detail

A primary carer is a person who is aged 15 years or over and provides the most informal assistance to a person with one or more disabilities or people aged 65 years or over. The assistance must be ongoing, or likely to be ongoing, for at least six months. Primary carers and the people they care for may live in different households, but information about primary carers was only collected if they lived in households (i.e. not providing care to person in a care facility).

For more information refer to the Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings methodology, explanatory notes.


Geography:  Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area and Primary Health Network


Numerator:   Estimated number of males/ females/ people who are primary carers by broad age group: 15-24, 25-64, 65+ and 15+ years


Denominator:   Male/ Female/ Total population by broad age group: 15-24, 25-64, 65+ and 15+ years


Detail of analysis:  Indirectly age-standardised rate per 100 population; and/or indirectly age-standardised ratio, based on the Australian standard


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers modelled estimates data (ABS cat. no. 4430.0).


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