Estimating the number of New Zealand children with a physical disability


  • Danielle Gerrard is currently working for Auckland District Health Board, Auckland, New Zealand.

Dr Phillipa Clark, Department of Paediatrics, University of Auckland, Auckland 1051, New Zealand. Fax: +64 9 3737486; email:


Aims:  To estimate the number of New Zealand children who have a physical disability, and to describe this group in relation to sex, age, ethnic group and severity.

Methods:  We used data collected by Statistics New Zealand's Household Disability Survey 2001. Within the estimated 90 000 children aged 0–14 years with a disability as described in Disability Counts 2001, we identified a subgroup using information on the use of equipment suggestive of mobility disability, the numbers estimated to be in receipt of or in need of physiotherapy and/or occupational therapy, and the small number needing ramps or similar modifications.

Results:  An estimated 14 500 children had a physical disability. This equates to an estimated 1.7% of the New Zealand population of children aged 0–14 years. Fifty-seven per cent were boys. An estimated 9600 were New Zealand-European, 3800 Maori and 600 Samoan. Approximately half were of moderate severity as defined by Statistics New Zealand. An estimated 9500 had a multiple disability.

Conclusions:  The rate is somewhat higher than in studies from countries where only locomotor disability is described, but similar to rates where other types of disability such as dexterity disability are included. This may reflect the fact that within our group are children who in other countries would have been described as having a dexterity or a self-help disability. It would be useful if future New Zealand data collection could attempt to separate these subgroups in order to allow better forward planning of health, education and family support services.