Learning disability statistics: health

People with learning disabilities have a much greater propensity to develop health problems - both physical and mental health - as compared with the general population.

In addition, they are likely to find it more difficult than others to describe their symptoms. As a result it is more difficult for health-care workers to identify health needs among people with learning disabilities, thus leaving some problems left unrecognised. It has also been found that people also have reduced access to generic preventative screening and health promotion procedures, such as breast or cervical screening.

  • People with learning disabilities have an increased risk of early death compared to the general population (Source: Hollins et al., 1998; McGuigan et al., 1995), although the life expectancy of this population is increasing over time and, for people with mild learning disabilities, approaching that of the general population (Source: Carter & Jancar, 1983; Puri et al., 1995)
  • People with learning disabilities are less likely to receive regular health checks (Source: Kerr et al., 1996b; Welsh Office, 1995; Whitfield et al., 1996), including people with Down's syndrome (Source: Piachaud et al., 1998)
  • GPs are not routinely acting as the co-ordinator of health care for people with learning disabilities, and collaboration between GPs, primary health care teams and specialist services for people with learning disabilities is generally poor (Source: Thornton, 1999). ( Above sources taken from 'Key Highlights of Research Evidence on the Health of People with Learning [Intellectual] Disabilities' report) 
  • People with learning disabilities are 2.5 times more likely to have health problems than other people. (Source: Report - Equal Treatment: Closing the Gap)
  • Less than 50% of eligible adults with a learning disability received a health check in 2010/11. (Source: People with Learning Disabilities in England 2011)