In May 2020, just over 7 in 10 disabled adults (73.6%) reported they were "very worried" or "somewhat worried" about the effect that the coronavirus (COVID-19) was having on their life (69.1% for non-disabled adults); this represents a decrease compared with April 2020, when nearly 9 in 10 (86.3%) disabled adults reported this.
A higher proportion of disabled people than non-disabled people were worried about the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on their well-being (62.4% for disabled people compared with 49.6% of non-disabled people); their access to groceries, medication and essentials (44.9% compared with 21.9%); their access to health care and treatment for non-coronavirus-related issues (40.6% compared with 21.2%); and their health (20.2% compared with 7.3%) in May 2020.
Concerns about well-being tended to be most frequent among those with mental health and socio-behavioural-related impairments, whereas concerns about access to essentials tended to be most frequent among those with hearing- or dexterity-related impairments.
Disabled adults more frequently reported their well-being had been affected through feeling lonely in the last seven days (48.7%) in May 2020 compared with April 2020 (30.3%); disabled adults were more likely to report this concern than non-disabled adults (29.4%) in May 2020.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic (in the year ending June 2019), the average rating for anxiety was 4.3 out of 10 for disabled people, but disabled people's average anxiety rating increased following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic to 5.5 out of 10 in April 2020 before decreasing to 4.7 out of 10 in May 2020; 41.6% of disabled people, compared with 29.2% of non-disabled people, continued to report a high level (a score of 6 to 10) of anxiety in May 2020.
About three-quarters of disabled people (73.4%) reported leaving their home in the last seven days for any reason, compared with over 9 in 10 non-disabled people (92.5%); disabled people were more likely to report leaving their homes for medical needs or to provide care or help to a vulnerable person (23.5%) than non-disabled people (13.1%) in May 2020.
In May 2020, around 1 in 10 disabled people (11.9%) indicated feeling very unsafe when outside their home because of the coronavirus outbreak, compared with fewer than 1 in 25 non-disabled people (3.8%).
“An ongoing part of ONS’s work is looking at inequalities in society. This is reflected in the way the pandemic is impacting on different groups. Disabled people are becoming more concerned about their mental health and experiencing feelings of loneliness as time goes on, whereas among non-disabled adults these concerns remain stable.”
David Ainslie, Disability Analysis Branch, Office for National StatisticsBack to table of contents
This article contains data and indicators from a new module being undertaken through the Office for National Statistics' (ONS') Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) to understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on British society, which is reported on in the Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain series of bulletins.
This article provides an update to Coronavirus and the social impacts on disabled people in Great Britain and now allows for a comparison of how the social impacts on disabled people have changed compared with earlier in the pandemic.
For the first time, we consider analysis of the social impacts on groups of disabled people with specific types of impairments. The article presents a summary of results, with further data contained in the datasets.
Throughout this article, April 2020 refers to data collected between 3 April to 13 April 2020, shortly after lockdown restrictions were introduced by the UK government at the end of March 2020. May 2020 refers to data collected between 14 May to 24 May 2020, a period in which some easing of lockdown restrictions began.
For the purposes of this analysis, a person is considered to be disabled if they have a self-reported long-standing illness, condition or impairment that reduces their ability to carry out day-to-day activities. There are an estimated 13.7 million disabled people in Great Britain according to the latest available estimates. This definition of disability is consistent with the Equality Act 2010 and the Government Statistical Service (GSS) harmonised definition. Impairments are self-reported by respondents as activities they cannot perform or have difficulty performing because of a health condition or illnesses. This is consistent with the GSS harmonised definition of impairment. For further information on disability and impairment definitions, please see the Glossary.
Further analysis, exploring the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on other "at-risk" groups, including young and older people, will be published in additional articles over the coming weeks as well as in-depth analysis on what matters most to people's well-being during the pandemic.
More about coronavirus
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.
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 or using a keyboard)
learning or understanding or concentrating
- 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.
This is the first time the question has been used for online self-completion.
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 where 0 is "not at all" and 10 is “completely”, how satisfied they are with their life overall, whether they feel the things they do in life are worthwhile, and their 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 article, 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).
This pooled dataset contains 2,023 individual responses, representing an overall response rate of 50% for the waves of the survey conducted from 14 May to 17 May 2020 and 21 May to 24 May 2020. 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, country or 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 May 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 14 May to 24 May 2020, even though attitudes may have changed slightly between the two waves included.
As some breakdowns are sourced from different-sized samples of people, confidence intervals have been included in the associated dataset where possible to indicate the robustness and significance of each estimated result.
Variables adapted during pooling
When creating a pooled dataset, it is only possible to include questions that were included across the entire period in question. Therefore, where additional response options have been added to multiple choice questions, we have incorporated them into existing categories so that people's responses could still be included in our analysis. Within this release, the following measures were affected. Full details may be found in the dataset.
Reasons for leaving home
Compared with 14 May 2020, from 21 May 2020 onwards, a response option was dropped from the multiple-choice question: "In the past seven days, for what reasons have you left your home?". The option removed was "None of the above". This response category was omitted from the pooled dataset.
Methods of travel
Compared with 14 May 2020, from 21 May 2020 onwards, a response option was replaced by another within the multiple-choice question: "Thinking of your main job, which modes of transport did you use to travel to work before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak? Please select all that apply". The option "Taxi or minicab" was dropped and "Car pooling or lift sharing (for example sharing a similar journey with others in the same car" was added. Responses within each of these categories were incorporated into responses listed as "other".
For consistency, the same method was applied to the multiple-choice question: "In the past seven days, which modes of transport have you used to travel to work? Please select all that apply".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: around 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 OPN QMI.Back to table of contents
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