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Disability among Māori

This chapter provides an overview of disability within the Māori population and how it compares with the total New Zealand population. It describes rates of disability by age and sex, the prevalence of different types of impairment, and the causes of impairment.

Disability rates

In 2013, 26 percent of the Māori population (176,000 people) were identified as disabled. This was an increase from 20 percent in 2001. The increase mirrored a rise in the disability rate among the total population, from 20 percent in 2001 to 24 percent in 2013.

The Māori disability rate in 2013 was slightly higher than that of the total population, despite the fact that the Māori population had a younger age profile, and therefore were less likely to be in the older age groups where disability is more common. If the Māori population age profile was the same as that of the total population, they would have had a much higher disability rate of 32 percent.

The relationship between age and disability is shown in Figure 1. In 2013 the Māori disability rate rose from 15 percent of those under the age of 15, to 63 percent of those aged 65 and over.

While the overall disability rate among Māori was similar for males (27 percent) and females (25 percent), males had higher rates than females in the youngest and oldest age groups. Among children under the age of 15, the rate was almost twice as high for males as females (19 percent compared with 10 percent). Among those aged 65 and over, Māori men had a disability rate of 74 percent compared with 53 percent for Māori women – possibly because men are more likely to work in manual occupations which may lead to physical impairments.

Figure 1

Type of impairment

The most common types of impairment among the Māori population are the same as those in the total population. In 2013 an estimated 12 percent of all Māori had mobility impairments, while 8 percent had hearing impairments, and similar proportions had impairments relating to agility, learning, and psychiatric or psychological conditions (7 percent each).

Of these, psychiatric or psychological impairments and learning impairments were more common in the Māori population than in the total population. Speaking, vision, and intellectual impairments were also more common among Māori.

Figure 2

The prevalence of physical and sensory impairments tends to increase with age. Among Māori aged 65 and over, 52 percent had mobility impairments, 32 percent had hearing impairments, and 31 percent had agility impairments. Rates for intellectual, psychiatric/psychological, speaking, and learning impairments showed relatively little variation by age.

Cause of impairment

Disease or illness was the most common cause of impairment among disabled Māori, with 40 percent having impairments caused by disease or illness. This was followed by accident or injury (28 percent), conditions existing since birth (24 percent), and ageing (18 percent). Individuals may have more than one impairment, so causes add to more than 100 percent.

Causes of impairment vary markedly by age. Among children, impairments were most commonly caused by conditions existing since birth (51 percent). But this cause became progressively less common with age, while disease or illness became a more common cause. Among Māori aged 65 and over, 63 percent of impairments were caused by disease or illness, and 46 percent were due to ageing.

Causes of impairment also varied by sex. Females were more likely than males to have impairments caused by disease or illness, or ageing. This reflects the longer life expectancy of women. On the other hand, males were more likely than females to have impairments existing since birth or caused by accident or injury.

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