A person has a disability if s/he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

According to the 2011 Census, 8.6% of Devon residents reported having a long-term health problem or disability that limits their day-to-day activities a lot and has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months (including problems related to old age), with 10.9% reporting their day-to-day activity were limited a little, a total of just under one in five (19.5%). The national value was 8.3%. According to the 2011 Census, 46.1% of Devon residents reported their general health as ‘very good’; this increased to 80.8% when also including those who reported their health as ‘good’. In England 81.4% of people reported their general health as either ‘very good’ or ‘good’. Devon’s combined value is therefore similar the national average.

A person with a learning disability is usually defined as having a significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information and learn new skills, with a reduced ability to cope independently, which has a lasting effect on development.

People with learning disabilities can also find it much harder than other people to access assessment and treatment for general health problems that have nothing directly to do with their disability.

Health, Care and Wellbeing Needs

People with a physical disability require additional support from health and care services and are more likely to experience general ill health and poorer wellbeing than those without a physical disability. The Learning Disabilities Observatory ‘Improving Health and Lives’ has highlighted health inequalities for people with learning disabilities http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160704150527/http://www.improvinghealthandlives.org.uk/uploads/doc/vid_7479_IHaL2010-3HealthInequality2010.pdf

  • The prevalence rate of epilepsy amongst people with learning disabilities is at least twenty times higher than for the general population
  • People with learning disabilities are 8-200 times more likely to have a vision impairment compared to the general population. Approximately 40% of people with learning disabilities are reported to have a hearing impairment, with people with Down’s syndrome at particularly high risk of developing vision and hearing loss
  • People with learning disabilities are much more likely to be obese than the general population. The high level of overweight status amongst persons with learning disabilities is likely to be associated with an increased risk of diabetes
  • People with Down’s Syndrome are more likely to have thyroid problems than within the general population. Around 10% of people with Down’s syndrome have thyroid problems. This is generally underactive thyroid resulting in weight gain and lethargy
  • People with learning disabilities are at a higher risk of mental health problems. The prevalence of psychiatric disorders is significantly higher among adults whose learning disabilities are identified by GPs, when compared to general population rates
  • The prevalence of dementia for people aged 65 and over with learning disabilities is 22% compared to 6% of the general population. People with Down’s syndrome are at particularly high risk of developing dementia, with the age of onset being 30-40 years younger than that for the general population
  • People with learning disabilities have shorter life expectancy, although it has increased over recent years. All-cause mortality rates among people with moderate to severe learning disabilities are three times higher than in the general population, and are particularly high in young adults, women and people with Down’s Syndrome.

Further Information

NHS Choices: Living with Disability http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/disability/Pages/Disabilityhome.aspx