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Note: In the UK, the term of ‘Learning disability’ is used instead of ‘Intellectual disability’.
Large health and life expectancy gap for people with learning disabilities
People with learning disabilities have poorer health and shorter life expectancy than those without shows the largest dataset of its kind, published by NHS Digital.
And the proportion given an annual health check varies considerably, depending on age and GP practice location.
The preliminary report,* which includes data from almost half of all GP practices in England in 2014-15, represents 51% of all patients registered, including 127,351 people with a learning disability and 28,832,342 people without. This makes it the largest study ever conducted into the health of people with learning disabilities in England.
The data flag up differences in the treatment, health, and outcomes of people with learning disabilities compared with the rest of the population.
The figures show that women with a learning disability lived 18 fewer years than the general population, while men had a life expectancy that was 14 years lower than that of the general population.
People with learning disabilities were 26 times more likely to have epilepsy, eight times more likely to have severe mental illness, and five times more likely to have dementia.
They were also three times more likely to have hypothyroidism and almost twice as likely to have diabetes, heart failure, chronic kidney disease or to sustain a stroke.
Obesity is twice as common in 18-35-year-olds with learning disabilities, while underweight is twice as common in people aged over 64 with learning disabilities, compared with patients with no learning disabilities, the figures show.
One in two eligible women with a learning disability received breast cancer screening compared to two in three without a learning disability.
The report points out that people with learning disabilities are likely to need additional help to ensure they can take part in screening, and while the figures suggest that death rates from cervical or breast cancer are not unusually high or low, death rates from bowel cancer in people with learning disabilities are significantly higher than for others.
The report found that around one person in 230 in England was recorded as having a learning disability—equivalent to 0.4% of the population. The highest prevalence was found in 18-24-year-old men (1%).
But, overall, just over 43% of people known to their GP to have a learning disability had been given an annual health check. Coverage was better in older age groups, reaching 50% or higher in those aged 45 years or older, but less than 40% among those aged under 25.
Furthermore, coverage varied around the country: around 39% of CCGs had a crude rate significantly lower than the national average, and 34% had a crude rate significantly higher.