In July 2020, around three-quarters of disabled people (75%) reported they were "very worried" or "somewhat worried" about the effect that the coronavirus (COVID-19) was having on their life (66% for non-disabled people); this is similar to May 2020 when nearly 74% of disabled people reported this.
Of the worries they had in July 2020, almost one-quarter of disabled people were most concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on their well-being (24%) (13% for non-disabled people); next most frequently, 13% of disabled people reported being most concerned about access to healthcare and treatment (compared with 3% of non-disabled people).
Around one-quarter (25%) of disabled people who were receiving medical care before the coronavirus pandemic indicated they were currently receiving treatment for only some of their conditions (compared with less than 1 in 10 (7%) non-disabled people who had a physical or mental health condition or illness and were receiving care before the pandemic).
All well-being ratings of disabled people remain poorer in July 2020 compared with a similar period prior to the coronavirus pandemic; 45% of disabled people reported high anxiety (a score of 6 out of 10 or higher) in this period, a similar level to May 2020 (42%).
In July 2020, disabled people reported more frequently than non-disabled people that the coronavirus pandemic is affecting their well-being because it makes their mental health worse (46% for disabled people and 18% for non-disabled people), they are feeling lonely (42% and 29%), they spend too much time alone (36% and 25%), they feel like a burden on others (25% and 8%), or have no one to talk to about their worries (17% and 10%).
Disabled people were more likely to report leaving their homes for medical needs or to provide care or help to a vulnerable person (19%) than non-disabled people (7%) but less likely to report leaving their home to eat or a drink at a restaurant, café, bar or pub (8% of disabled people, 14 % of non-disabled people), travel to work (21% of disabled people, 39% of non-disabled people), or to take children to and from school (5% of disabled people, 11% of non-disabled people).
In July 2020, around 4 in 10 disabled people (37%) reported they had not met up with other people to socialise this week, a higher proportion than reported by non-disabled people (29%).
In July 2020, around 1 in 10 disabled people (9%) indicated feeling very unsafe when outside their home because of the coronavirus pandemic, compared with less than 1 in 25 non-disabled people (3%).
“This is our third look at how the pandemic is affecting an estimated 13.7 million disabled people. We recognise that everyone’s experience is different, and the term ‘disabled’ is a very broad one. Nevertheless, at a time in which lockdown restrictions began to ease in parts of the UK, disabled adults experience was different from that of the wider population.
“Their concerns about well-being and accessing healthcare were higher than among non-disabled people. We saw differences too, in behaviours. Disabled people were more likely to go out to attend medical appointments or take care of others than non-disabled people were, and less likely to be socialising and eating out.”
David Ainslie, Principal Research Officer, Office for National StatisticsBack to table of contents
To define disability in this publication, we refer to the Government Statistical Service (GSS) harmonised “core” definition: this identifies as “disabled” a person who has a physical or mental health condition or illness that has lasted or is expected to last 12 months or more that reduces their ability to carry out day-to-day activities.
The GSS harmonised questions are asked of the respondent in the survey, meaning that disability status is self-reported.
Ethnographically led research
Ethnographically led research observes people in their own environment to understand their experiences, views and everyday practices. This can give in-depth insight into a particular context, group or culture.
Ethnography employs a range of research and data collection techniques, which may include observations, taking field notes, informal conversations, interviews, document analysis, surveys, filming and photography.
To define an impairment in this publication, we refer to the GSS harmonised definition: this identifies impairments as activities a person cannot perform or has difficulty performing because of their) health condition or illnesses.
The GSS harmonised questions are asked of the respondent in the survey, meaning that impairment status is self-reported.
Participants are asked if any of their reported illnesses or conditions affect them in the following areas:
- vision (for example blindness or partial sight)
- hearing (for example deafness or partial hearing
- mobility (for example walking short distances or climbing stairs)
- dexterity (for example lifting or carrying objects, using a keyboard)
- learning or understanding or concentrating
- mental health
- stamina or breathing or fatigue
- socially or behaviourally (for example associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which includes Asperger’s, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD))
Participants can select all impairments that apply. If a participant has multiple impairments, they are represented in each of those impairment categories in this analysis; this may dilute the differences found between impairment types within the analysis undertaken. Age is associated with an increasing prevalence of some impairment types (for example, mobility or hearing). Future analysis could seek to examine controlling for these potential influences.
Breakdowns provided in the article, and datasets by impairment type only include participants who have reported both being disabled and having an impairment
Personal well-being measures ask people to evaluate, on a scale of 0 to 10, how satisfied they are with their life overall, whether they feel the things they do in life are worthwhile, and happiness and anxiety yesterday.
Any changes or differences mentioned in this bulletin are statistically significant unless stated otherwise. The statistical significance of differences noted within the release are determined based on non-overlapping confidence intervals. In some cases, a significance test was also carried out, as shown in the footnotes.Back to table of contents
The Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) is a monthly omnibus survey. In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we adapted the OPN to become a weekly survey used to collect data on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on day-to-day life in Great Britain.
To enable more detailed analysis, such as the impairments breakdowns included in this bulletin, two waves of this weekly OPN data have been pooled together and reweighted to create a larger dataset. By pooling data, we improve the sample size available to create smaller breakdowns of individual questions at the expense of having to report on a wider time period (two weeks rather than one week). A selection of indicators is based on data from 15 to 19 July 2020 only, as certain questions are only available for one wave of data. Where data from one wave are used, this is indicated in the article and dataset.
The pooled dataset contains 3,349 individual responses, representing an overall response rate of 67% for the waves of the survey conducted from 8 July to 12 July, and 15 July to 19 July 2020. The dataset used for indicators based on data from 15 July to 19 July 2020 has 1,606 individual responses, which represent a response rate of 64%. Survey responses were collected using an online self-completion questionnaire, with the option to take part over the phone.
The survey results are weighted to be a representative sample for the population of Great Britain. Weights were first adjusted for non-response and attrition, then calibrated to satisfy population distributions considering the following factors: sex by age, region, tenure, highest qualification, employment status, National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC) group and smoking status. For age, sex and geography, population totals based on projections of mid-year population estimates for July 2020 were used. The resulting weighted sample is therefore representative of the Great Britain adult population by a number of socio-demographic factors and geography.
Some survey questions asked for people's responses in reference to "the past seven days". These results have been presented representing people's views during the period 8 July to 19 July 2020, even though attitudes may have changed slightly between the two waves included.
Disability Unit and Policy Lab qualitative data
The Cabinet Office Disability Unit works across the government and with disabled people with the aim of breaking down the barriers faced by disabled people in the UK. The Disability Unit forms part of the Cabinet Office Equalities Hub, together with the Government Equalities Office and Race Disparity Unit.
The government has committed to publishing a National Strategy for Disabled People. The Disability Unit will publish the strategy taking into account the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on disabled people. The strategy will focus on the issues that disabled people say affect them the most in all aspects and phases of life, including employment, housing, education and transport.
Policy Lab is an established innovation function for policymaking, operating as a service for commissioners in government departments. The team has six years’ experience of testing, learning and demonstrating how policy innovation works, partnering with policymakers right across the UK Civil Service and internationally, through policy projects, training and knowledge-building activities. Policy Lab is multidisciplinary, drawing on expertise from social research, ethnography, design, data and futures, alongside policy expertise.
Policy Lab worked with the Cabinet Office Disability Unit from 2019 to 2020 to understand the lived experiences of disabled people through an ethnographically led film research project, working with 12 participants.
The Disability Unit and Policy Lab are now undertaking further work to build understanding about the impact of the coronavirus on the lives of disabled people. Research is being conducted over a three-month period (between July and September 2020) during which Policy Lab is gathering insights about people’s daily experiences, focusing on what has changed in light of the coronavirus. The Disability Unit and Policy Lab are working with nine people, many of whom participated in the initial project.
The research uses a range of qualitative methods including digital and ethnographically led approaches. This involves spending time with participants on a weekly basis, allowing researchers to discuss and observe the impact of the coronavirus on disabled people and their families. The researchers are also exploring people’s experiences of interacting in communities and with wider government services. All quotes in this article are anonymised.
The research is currently underway. This means that ethnographically led insights from the Disability Unit and Policy Lab are indicative, and as such are used to illustrate the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data rather than being presented as substantive findings.Back to table of contents
The main strengths of the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) include:
- it allows for timely production of data and statistics that can respond quickly to changing needs
- it meets data needs: the questionnaire is developed with customer consultation, and design expertise is applied in the development stages
- robust methods are adopted for the survey’s sampling and weighting strategies to limit the impact of bias
- quality assurance procedures are undertaken throughout the analysis stages to minimise the risk of error
The main limitations of the OPN include:
- the sample size is relatively small: 2,500 individuals per week with fewer completed interviews, meaning that detailed analyses for subnational geographies and other sub-groups are not possible
- comparisons between periods and groups must be done with caution as estimates are provided from a sample survey; as such, confidence intervals are included in the datasets to present the sampling variability, which should be taken into account when assessing differences between periods, as true differences may not exist
More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain and the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey QMI.
The main strengths and limitations of the Policy Lab and Disability Unit qualitative data include:
ethnographically led research approaches allow researchers to explore someone’s whole experience in a rich, empathic and sensitive manner, in order to build a picture of their lives as holistically as possible
ethnographically led research uses small sample sizes, meaning insights should be alongside other data; the work is not designed to be representative, but rather to give detailed insights about people’s lived experience
to adapt to the coronavirus (COVID-19), Policy Lab is undertaking research using video conferencing and digital messaging services; some people with the highest needs are unable to access these platforms, therefore Policy Lab is exploring research strategies that enable them to undertake distanced research with the most vulnerable groups, for example by phone
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