The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has explored outcomes for disabled people across a number of areas of life, through a series of bulletins – other pages in this release include:
- Improving disability data in the UK
- Disability and education
- Disability and employment
- Disability and housing
- Disability and crime
- Disability and social participation
Aims of this work
This work aims to present comparable information that uses the Government Statistical Service's (GSS) harmonised definition of “disability”, and as far as possible presents UK analysis, alongside intersections with other protected characteristics.
Definition of disability
For the purposes of this analysis, a person is considered to have a disability if they have a self-reported long-standing illness, condition or impairment that causes difficulty with day-to-day activities. This definition is consistent with the Equality Act 2010 and the GSS harmonised definition. For further information on disability and impairment definitions see the Glossary.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) routinely reports on personal well-being but does not routinely disaggregate this information by disability. Related to well-being is loneliness, where disabled people have previously been shown to be at a disadvantage (ONS, 2018).
This bulletin uses the Annual Population Survey (APS) to explore outcomes of personal well-being for disabled adults, aged 16 to 64 years, in the UK, covering the period 2014 to 2019. The Community Life Survey (CLS) is used to explore loneliness for disabled and non-disabled adults, aged 16 to 64 years, in England, covering the period 2014 to 2018.Back to table of contents
Disabled people’s average ratings are lower than those for non-disabled people for happiness, worthwhile and life satisfaction measures.
Average anxiety ratings are higher for disabled people at 4.27 out of 10, compared with 2.66 out of 10 for non-disabled people.
Disabled people with a mental impairment as a main health problem have the poorest well-being ratings.
Disabled people whose impairments affect them more severely have poorer well-being ratings than disabled people whose impairments affect them less severely.
The proportion of disabled people (13.3%) who report feeling lonely “often or always” is almost four times that of non-disabled people (3.4%), with the greatest disparity for young adults, aged 16 to 24 years old.
Well-being measures are taken from the Annual Population Survey (APS), using UK data from the year ending June 2019. For time series analysis, the data go back to the year ending June 2014, as this is the earliest period available for disability data using the harmonised definition (see the glossary).
Disabled people report lower well-being levels than non-disabled people
On average, disabled adults have poorer ratings than non-disabled adults on all four personal well-being measures. In the year ending June 2019, the mean scores on these measures were:
for happiness yesterday, 6.54 out of 10 for disabled people, compared with 7.71 for non-disabled people
for feeling that the things done in life are worthwhile, 7.09 out of 10 for disabled people, compared with 8.03 for non-disabled people
for life satisfaction, 6.68 out of 10 for disabled people, compared with 7.90 for non-disabled people
for anxiety yesterday, 4.27 out of 10 for disabled people, compared with 2.66 for non-disabled people (higher numbers equate to poorer well-being in this measure)
Between 2014 and 2019, there were small increases in the average ratings for for happiness, worthwhile and life satisfaction for both disabled and non-disabled people. However, over this period the differences between disabled and non-disabled people on these measures remained consistent. See the Disability and well-being dataset Table 1 for further information.Back to table of contents
Loneliness data are taken from the Community Life Survey, using England-only data from the year ending March 2018. For time series analysis, the data go back to year ending April 2014, as this is the earliest period available for disability data using the harmonised definition (see the glossary).
A higher percentage of disabled people feel lonely compared with non-disabled people
The proportion of disabled people who reported feeling lonely “often or always” was nearly four times that of non-disabled people. In the year ending March 2018, 13.3% of disabled people reported that they felt lonely “often or always”, compared with only 3.4% for non-disabled people.
Between 2014 and 2018, there were no significant changes in the proportions who reported feeling lonely “often or always” for both disabled or non-disabled people. See the Disability and loneliness dataset Table 1 for further information.Back to table of contents
The difference between disabled and non-disabled people in average anxiety ratings becomes smaller in older age groups. In the 16 to 21 years age-group the average rating is 2.19 points higher for disabled people compared with non-disabled people; in the 60 to 64 years age-group the difference is 1.32 points. This effect is also seen with loneliness where disparities between disabled and non-disabled people are smallest in the older age-groups.
However, differences in average happiness, worthwhile and life satisfaction ratings between disabled and non-disabled people have little variation as people get older.
In all age groups the proportion of people who felt lonely “often or always” was higher for disabled people than for non-disabled people. The proportion of disabled people who reported feeling lonely “often or always” was largest in the younger age groups and decreased with age.
The disparity between disabled and non-disabled people, in terms of the proportion of people who said that they felt lonely “often or always” decreased with age, from 27.4 percentage points in the 16 to 24 years age group to 2.7 percentage points in the 65 years and over age group.Back to table of contents
Both disabled men and disabled women have poorer well-being than their non-disabled counterparts
The differences between disabled and non-disabled people on all four measures of well-being are similar for both men and women. For disabled men, average happiness, worthwhile and life satisfaction ratings were between 1.03 and 1.32 points lower than for non-disabled men, while anxiety ratings were scored 1.49 higher, at 4.00 out of 10. For disabled women, average well-being ratings were between 0.92 and 1.16 points lower, with anxiety scored 1.65 higher, at 4.46 out of 10.
Average life satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness ratings are higher for women than they are for men and this is true for both disabled and non-disabled people. Conversely, the average rating for anxiety is poorer for women and this is also true for both disabled and non-disabled people.
See the Disability and well-being dataset Table 3 for further information on the analysis of well-being by disability and sex.
Both disabled men and women were more likely to report feeling lonely “often or always”, compared with their non-disabled counterparts. When comparing disabled and non-disabled men, there was a difference of 10.5 percentage points. For women, this difference was 9.3 percentage points.
See the Disability and loneliness dataset Table 4 for further information on the analysis of loneliness by disability and sex.Back to table of contents
The average well-being ratings of disabled people vary with impairment type. Whilst the average rating for each well-being measure was poorer for disabled people in all impairment types (physical, mental or other), well-being measures were notably poor for those with a mental impairment as their main health problem.
See the Disability and well-being dataset Table 4 for further information on the analysis of well-being by disability and impairment type.
Analysis of loneliness by impairment type has not been included as these data were not collected on the Community Life Survey.Back to table of contents
Disabled people who self-report that their ability to carry-out day-to-day activities is “limited a lot” by their impairment have a mean anxiety rating of 4.85 out of 10; this compares with 3.87 out of 10 for disabled people who report their ability is “limited a little” by their impairment and 2.66 out of 10 for non-disabled people. This effect, of poorer outcomes for those “limited a lot” by their impairment, is seen on all four of the well-being measures.
The effect of poorer average well-being ratings in disabled people who are more severely affected by their impairment is present in people of all impairment types: mental, physical and other. The poorest well-being ratings are seen in disabled people who both have a mental impairment as a main health problem and whose ability to carry-out day-to-day activities is “limited a lot”.
The greatest disparity is in anxiety ratings where disabled people, whose main health problem is a mental impairment and whose ability to carry-out day-to-day tasks were stated as “limited a lot”, have an average rating of 6.13 out of 10, compared with 2.66 out of 10 for non-disabled people.
See the Disability and well-being dataset Table 5 and Table 6 for further information on the analysis of well-being by disability and impairment severity.
Disabled people whose ability to carry-out day-to-day tasks are “limited a lot” (19.8%) are also almost twice as likely to feel lonely “often or always”, compared with those who are “limited a little” (10.3%).Back to table of contents
Trends vary for each of the well-being measures. The smallest disparities between disabled and non-disabled people were seen in England on all four measures. The differences in average well-being ratings were greater in Wales than in England on worthwhile, life satisfaction and anxiety.
The largest disparities between disabled and non-disabled people were seen in Northern Ireland and Scotland for happiness, life satisfaction and anxiety. Whilst these disparities were not significantly different between these two countries, they were different from the other UK countries.
See the Disability and well-being dataset Table 7 for further information on well-being by disability and country analysis.Back to table of contents
Disability and well-being dataset
Dataset | Released 2 December 2019
Average well-being ratings of disabled and non-disabled people in the UK, with breakdowns of year, impairment type, impairment severity, age, sex and country.
Disability and loneliness dataset
Dataset | Released 2 December 2019
The proportion of disabled and non-disabled people in England who feel lonely "often or always", with breakdowns of year, impairment severity, age and sex.Back to table of contents
To define disability in this publication we refer to the Government Statistical Service (GSS) harmonised “core” definition: this identifies “disabled” as 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.
An impairment is defined as any physical or mental health conditions or illnesses lasting or expected to last 12 months or more. Respondents were presented with a list of impairments and then asked to select all that apply and subsequently their "main health problem". The commentary in this bulletin refers to the main health problem. Analysis is limited to those who are also defined as disabled and does not explore where disabled people experienced more than one impairment. For further details see Volume 3: Detail of Labour Force Survey variables.
Mental impairments are those with "depression, bad nerves or anxiety", "epilepsy", "learning difficulties" or "mental illness or nervous disorder".
Physical impairments are those with "problems with arms or hands", "problems with legs or feet", "problems with back or neck", "difficulty in seeing", "difficulty in hearing", "speech impediment", "severe disfigurement, skin conditions or allergies", "chest or breathing problems" "heart, blood pressure, or blood circulation problems", "stomach, liver, kidney or digestion" or "diabetes".
Other impairments are those with "progressive illness not included elsewhere (for example, cancer, symptomatic HIV or multiple sclerosis)" or "other health problems or disabilities".
Disabled people whose ability to carry-out day-to-day activities is self-reported as "limited a lot" or "limited a little" by their impairment. Respondents were asked: "Does your condition or illness reduce your ability to carry out day-to-day activities?" with the responses, "yes, a lot" and "yes, a little" being taken to indicate severity of disability.
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 they have meaning and purpose in their life, and about their emotions (happiness and anxiety) during a particular period.
Those who feel lonely "often or always" refers to those who when asked: "How often do you feel lonely?" selected the answer "often or always" from the following list of responses: "often or always", "sometimes", "occasionally", "hardly ever" and "never". These responses have been grouped together into an "other" category. This analysis is available in the datasets.
Any changes or differences mentioned in this bulletin are "statistically significant". The statistical significance of differences noted within the release are determined based on non-overlapping confidence intervals.Back to table of contents
The Annual Population Survey
Well-being estimates are based on data collected from the Annual Population Survey (APS).
The APS is an annual survey based on data collected in wave 1 and wave 5 on the Labour Force Survey (LFS), combined with an annual local area boost sample run in England, Wales, and Scotland.
The survey does not cover communal establishments, except for NHS staff accommodation. Those living in student halls of residence or boarding school are included as part of their family household. The APS dataset contains approximately 300,000 individuals.
The APS datasets are produced for four different overlapping 12-month periods: January to December, April to March, July to June and October to September. The analysis in this publication was conducted on the July 2018 to June 2019 period as it provides the most up-to-date information.
The Community Life Survey
The Community Life Survey is a household self-completion survey of approximately 10,000 adults aged 16 years and over in England. The survey can be completed either in a paper or online format; the question regarding disability status is asked online only. Data for the 2017 to 2018 year were collected between August 2017 and March 2018.Back to table of contents
The analysis conducted is for the purpose of comparing the outcomes of disabled and non-disabled people. The analysis describes differences in these two populations, but does not explore the cause of this difference. Further analysis, which is outside the scope of this article, is required to make judgements on causality. Please see the “Improving Disability Data in the UK” article for details of our future workplan.
Coverage and population
Analysis using the Annual Population Survey (APS) has been restricted to 16- to 64-year-olds because the survey does not collect data for under 16s and the disability variable is not robust for those aged over 64. Disability status is only collected for people aged 65 years or older at their first contact resulting in less data for this population. The weighting used does not account for the reduced sample size for this age group, making the data not fully representative of the population.
The survey's sampling method excludes communal establishments. Therefore, the findings of this analysis are not representative of disabled people who reside in medical or residential care establishments.
Approximately 100,000 APS respondents are used in the analysis in this bulletin -- this is notably lower than the 300,000 people who are in the survey. This is because of the use of the working age population only and no proxy responses recorded on the well-being modules.
Uncertainty and quality
The results in this bulletin are survey-based estimates, so they are subject to a level of uncertainty as they are based on a sample rather than the whole population. Confidence intervals are provided around every estimate and give an indication of the range in which the true population value is likely to fall. The estimates in this bulletin are supported with confidence intervals at the 95% level. This means that, if we repeated the sample, we would expect the true population value to fall within the lower and upper bounds of the interval 95% of the time (that is, 19 times out of 20).
Analysis by impairment is based on the "main impairment" as reported by the respondent. People often experience more than one impairment, but this analysis does not account for co-morbidities or the cumulative impact of living with more than one impairment simultaneously.
The Personal well-being in the UK Quality and Methodology Information report contains important information on the strengths and limitations and uses of the data as well as how outputs are created and the quality and accuracy of those outputs. For more information on personal well-being, please see the Personal well-being user guidance and Harmonised principles of personal well-being.
All analysis of well-being measures in this bulletin compares mean scores between groups. Another method of comparing well-being scores between groups is to look at the proportions of people who are within certain thresholds that indicate well-being levels.
Loneliness proportions were calculated using the Community Life Survey, which is used in England only. Links to data for other UK countries are included in the Related links section.Back to table of contents
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
Telephone: +44 (0)1633456180