Disability Statistics

There are many sources of data on people with disabilities. Unlike age or gender, ‘disability’ is not sharply defined. The definition of disability used varies considerably from one source of data to another, and different measures capture different aspects of disability. The measured disability rate is also affected by how the data are collected – whether it was self-assessed, based on a professional assessment or on qualifying for a particular type of support.

Sources of Data


This has information on the number of people reporting a disability and the type of impairment, along with socio-economic information such as age, gender, education, employment, family status and housing circumstances. See in particular Vol. 8, Our Bill of Health.

National Disability Survey 2006

This was a follow-up sample of some 14,000 individuals who had declared a disability in the 2006 Census, with a wealth of information.

Household surveys conducted by the Central Statistics Office have some information on people with disability. See in particular:

Quarterly National Household Survey modules on Disability in the labour force (Q2 2002), Disability Update (Q1 2004), and Equality (Q4 2004 and Q4 2010)

Survey of Income and Living Conditions
Annual survey which records information on income and living conditions and is used as a basis for measuring poverty.

Health Research Board Disability Databases

The Health Research Board publishes annual statistical reports relating to people with disabilities who are receiving or on a waiting list for specialist disability services: the National Intellectual Disability Database and the National Physical and Sensory Disability Database.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection publishes information on the number of people getting payments related to illness, disability and caring.

Growing up in Ireland Survey

This survey revisits the same children at periodic intervals and can be used to track influences on development and wellbeing of children with and without disabilities.

The Irish Longitudinal Survey on Ageing - TILDA

This survey follows a sample of older people (over 50s) at periodic intervals. The Intellectual Disability Supplement (IDS-TILDA) surveys a group of people with intellectual disability (aged initially over 40) at periodic intervals.

Some Data on Disability

The number of people recorded as having a disability is sensitive to what definition is used, and how it is measured. Unlike age or gender, ‘disability’ is not sharply defined. People’s perception of what constitutes a threshold of disability can also vary over time.

Census 2006 showed about 400,000 people reported a disability, or about 9% of the population. Census 2011 showed about 600,000 people reported having a disability, or about 13% of the population. There were some differences between the two censuses in how disability was measured.