Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Disabled people consistently more worried during pandemic than non-disabled people

The Office for National Statistic (ONS) has published its latest analysis of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on disabled people in Great Britain.

The data from December 2021 reveals that while fewer disabled people are worried about the impact of Covid-19 on their life now (72%) compared to earlier points in that pandemic (91% in March 2020), they are still more likely to be worried than non-disabled people (64%).

High levels of concern have been shown throughout the pandemic, and while they have dropped and risen as we have come in and out of lockdowns, disabled people have consistently been more worried about the effect that Covid-19 was having on their life.

The pandemic has disproportionately affected disabled people’s wellbeing

The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected disabled people’s wellbeing too and on average, disabled people scored poorer wellbeing ratings than non-disabled people across all four measures.

On average, disabled people had lower life satisfaction (6.3 compared with 7.3 for non-disabled people); felt that things in their life were less worthwhile (6.6 compared with 7.6); felt less happy (6.2 compared with 7.4); and were more anxious (5.1 compared with 3.7).

When asked how their wellbeing has been affected, disabled people were more likely to report feeling stressed or anxious (79% compared with 68% for non-disabled people); worse mental health (50% compared with 31%); and feeling like a burden on others (23% compared with 7%).

Disabled people twice as likely to report feeling lonely

Loneliness has also had a significant impact on wellbeing, and since the start of the pandemic, disabled people have been around twice as likely to report feeling lonely often, always or some of the time compared with non-disabled people.

In December 2021, 40% of disabled people reported feeling lonely, a figure which hasn’t changed much since February 2021 (43%). The proportion of non-disabled people reporting feeling lonely has stayed similar too, with 18% saying they felt lonely in December 2021, down from 21% in February 2021.

Disabled people less likely to be able to save money 

Concerns about the cost of living also impacted disabled people disproportionately. In December 2021, 15% of disabled people reported that their household finances were affected (compared to 12% of non-disabled people) and around three-quarters of disabled people (74%) reported that their cost of living had increased in the last month, compared to 64% of non-disabled people.

The most reported reasons for this increase (price of food shopping, gas or electricity bills, and fuel) were the same for both disabled and non-disabled people.

When considering their future ability to save money, around a third (36%) of disabled people said they would be able to save money compared to around half (51%) of non-disabled people.

Perceptions on the future

Disabled people have also been less optimistic about life returning to normal compared to their non-disabled peers. At the start of the pandemic, 77% of non-disabled people thought life would return to normal in less than a year compared to 67% of non-disabled people. In December 2021, these figures had fallen to 12% and 18% respectively.

Some people, however, think life will never return to normal. In May 2020, 8% of disabled people reported this, compared with 2% of non-disabled people. These proportions have steadily increased throughout 2021, to 18% and 11% respectively in December 2021.

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