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What does the 2011 Census tell us about health and disability?

ONS analysis looks at how age and area influence ‘Good’ health among disabled people

Self-reported general health is an important measure of the health of the population, commonly used in decisions relating to health and social care resource allocation. The latest census analysis suggests that this measure can overlook the health and social care needs of a significant number of disabled people, particularly amongst the elderly and those living in deprived areas. The way in which people judge their general health changes as they age and this is strongly influenced by the area in which they live across England and Wales. In 2011, 4.3 % (2.4 million people) of the population said they were in very good or good general health despite having a disability.

A disability is not a barrier to ‘Good’ health

Across England and Wales the proportion of people who are in ‘Good’ health despite a disability increases with age from around one in fifty children (0 to 15) to around one in six elderly (85 and over). However, in some ways this simply reflects the increased incidence of disability at older ages.

The likelihood of being in ‘Good’ health despite a disability however decreases with age, more than half of all disabled children are in ‘Good’ health compared to a fifth of adults aged over 50.  This may be because children with a disability (or the parents and carers of children with a disability) have a more positive outlook than adults when it comes to thinking about their general health. The findings may also reflect more adequate health and social care provision among the young disabled population, allowing them to overlook the limitations of their disability.

Disabled males are more likely to be in ‘Good’ health than disabled females

Among the disabled population males are more likely than females to be in ‘Good’ health despite their disability, particularly when their disability limits them a lot in their day-to-day activities. Differences are most noticeable at younger ages which may reflect different social and cultural attitudes to health among males and females at different ages.

Strong relationship between where you live and how you view your general health

Disabled people living in more affluent areas are more likely to be in ‘Good’ health than disabled people living in more deprived areas. After the age of 35 the proportion of disabled people with ‘Good’ general health in the most affluent areas is around twice that of disabled people living in the most deprived areas. This may be because people living in more affluent areas are more able to overcome the limitations of their disability and so judge their general health more favourably. It may also because people living in more affluent areas have better access to adequate health and social care than people living in more deprived areas.

Where can I find out more about health statistics?

These statistics were analysed by Census Analysis branch and Public Policy Analysis division at ONS. This analysis is based largely on data from the Census, carried out by ONS. If you would like to find out more about the latest health statistics, you can read the release, view the infographic or visit the Census analysis page. If you have any comments or suggestions, we would like to hear them! Please email us at:


  • Census data is unable to tell us about the types of disability that people have, or the length of time that they are lived with.

  • Differences in the types of disability and the length of time that they are lived with among the young compared to the old may also partly explain these results.

  • As Census data does not capture this information further research is required to gain a more complete understanding of this issue.

Categories: Health and Social Care, Health of the Population, Disability and Self-reported Health, Health Inequalities
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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