Disability-based discrimination and health: findings from an Australian-based population study

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Objective: Among working-age Australian adults with a disability, we assess the association between disability-based discrimination and both overall health and psychological distress.

Methods: Using data from the 2015 Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers we estimated the proportion of working-age women and men (15–64 years) with disability who report disability-based discrimination by socio-demographic characteristics and assessed the association between disability-based discrimination and self-reported health and psychological distress.

Results: Nearly 14% of Australians with disability reported disability-based discrimination in the previous year. Disability-based discrimination was more common among people living in more disadvantaged circumstances (unemployed, low income, lower-status occupations), younger people and people born in English-speaking countries. Disability-based discrimination was associated with higher levels of psychological distress (OR: 2.53, 95%CI: 2.11, 3.02) and poorer self-reported health (OR: 1.63, 95%CI: 1.37, 1.95).

Conclusion: Disability-based discrimination is a prevalent, important determinant of health for Australians with disability.

Implications for public health: Disability-based discrimination is an under-recognised public health problem that is likely to contribute to disability-based health inequities. Public health policy, research and practice needs to concentrate efforts on developing policy and programs that reduce discrimination experienced by Australians with disability.

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