Disabilities can make it harder for people to carry out daily activities which are often taken for granted. Disability statistics help us work out how much health and social care is needed, and create policies to help lower the barriers that disabled people may face.
The question in the census was designed to capture self-assessed activity restrictions associated with health problems or impairments, which is an indicator of disability. An individual responding ‘Yes, limited a lot’ or ‘Yes, limited a little’ is classified as having a disability, for the purposes of this article
Ten million people in England and Wales had some form of disability in 2011 - that's 18% of the population.
In 2011, nearly 1 in 5 people (17.9%) in England and Wales reported a disability that limited their daily activities. People living in deprived areas and working in routine occupations were more likely to be disabled, showing the inequality that exists across England and Wales. The proportion of people with a disability in Wales (22.7%) was notably higher than in England (17.6%).
Striking inequalities in disability between the least and most deprived areas
People reporting a disability that limited them a lot in their daily activities by sex, England and Wales, 2011
There were lower rates of disability in areas with lower levels of local deprivation1 and vice versa. Across England, the local authorities with the highest disability rates were deprived areas mainly clustered around the North West of England. Knowsley, Liverpool and Manchester had the highest proportion of people reporting a disability that limited them a lot in their daily activities for both males and females, suggesting these areas have higher social care needs.
By contrast the authorities with the lowest rates of disability were among the least deprived in England, located predominantly in the commuter belts of Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey. Hart for males and Elmbridge for females had the lowest proportion of people reporting that they were limited a lot by their disability. Disability levels in Wales were similar to those in the North East.
People working in routine occupations were more than twice as likely to report a disability
Likelihood of reporting a disability by occupation type and sex, England and Wales, 2011
Greater socio-economic disadvantage was associated with increased rates of disability. People working in routine occupations2 were more than twice as likely to report a disability compared with those working in higher managerial and professional occupations3 for both males (27.1% compared with 13.3%) and females (30.3% compared with 15.0%).
Females spend more of their lives with a disability
Disability-free life expectancy and proportion of life spent disability-free by sex, England and Wales, 2011
Disability-free life expectancies (DFLE) indicate how long a person can expect to live without a disability. Males born in England and Wales 2011 could, on average, expect to spend a little over 64 years without a disability, whilst for females this figure was higher at 65.0 years. Despite their longer life expectancy, females could also expect to spend a greater proportion of their life with a disability (21.6% compared with 19.1% for males).
DFLE estimates also highlight the stark inequality in health. Across England, men living in NHS Guildford and Waverley health area could expect to spend 15.1 years more disability-free than those living in NHS North Manchester. For women, the difference was 16 years between those living in NHS Surrey Downs and NHS Bradford City.
- Area deprivation is measured by the Index of Multiple Deprivation 2010 (Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation 2011 in Wales). These indices assess deprivation across measures including income, employment, education and crime.
- Routine occupations are generally semi-skilled or unskilled and are among the lowest paid. Examples of jobs include bar staff, cleaners and labourers.
- Managerial and professional occupations often require extensive qualifications and are generally the highest paid. Examples of jobs include lawyers, architects and medical doctors.