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February 2019

Lower life expectancy for people with learning disability


The life expectancy of people with a learning disability is between 14 and 18 years lower than the general population, according to the latest figures from NHS Digital.


One in 215 people in England were recorded as having a learning disability in the QOF 2017-18 Learning Disabilities register. Females with learning disabilities had a life expectancy 18 years lower than the general population, while men could expect to live 14 years less.

There has been an improvement in the number of people with a learning disability who had an annual health check: 55.1% in 2017-18 compared with 43.2% in 2014-15, and the percentage of people with a learning disability who had their BMI checked also increased, from 58.3% to 61.5%. These checks found that more people with a learning disability are classified as obese – and also that more of this group were underweight.

But overall, fewer patients with learning disabilities were screened for various types of cancer than those without learning disabilities. The most pronounced difference was in cervical screening where less than a third (31%) of people with learning disabilities were screened compared with 73% of those without. Although there was an increase in the number of patients with learning disabilities who were screened for colorectal screening, from 69% in 2014-15 to 79% in the latest data, the rate was still significantly lower than in the general population (84%).

Less than half of people with learning disabilities had their seasonal flu immunisation – although this figure increased to 83% in the over-75s with learning disabilities.

Epilepsy is more than 25 times more prevalent in patients with learning disabilities than those without, severe mental illness was 8.4 times more prevalent, but conversely coronary heart disease was less prevalent than in the general population. The report also found that asthma was more common in people with learning disabilities, as was dementia that tended to occur at an earlier age

NHS Digital. Health and care of people with learning disabilities 2017 to 2018, January 2019. https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/health-and-care-of-people-with-learning-disabilities/experimental-statistics-2017-to-2018