Adults with Learning Disabilities: Facts and Figures

  • Approximately 20 people per 1000 in England have a learning disability.
  • Applying national figures to Lewisham’s population of 264,500 (and adjusting for local population age and sex structure) means that approximately 5400 adults in Lewisham have a learning disability
  • Learning disability prevalence can also be measured as the number of people registered with local GPs, based on QOF data. The figure below shows all UK PCTs arranged in rank order according to the prevalence of learning disability in 2008/9 from QOF data (number per 1000 population). Lewisham is highlighted orange and is in the bottom quintile. Prevalence is significantly lower than in PCTs in the middle and upper two quintiles.

Figure 1 Patients registered on QOF databases as having a learning disability, 2008/9 by UK PCT (Lewisham highlighted orange). Y axis shows rate per 1000 population


Source: (accessed 1.10.2010)


  • It is not possible to know to what degree QOF prevalence reflects true population prevalence and to what extent it reflects diagnostic patterns in individual PCTs.

People with learning disabilities1:

  • Are four times more likely to die of preventable causes than other people due to untreated ill health, leading to a high likelihood that avoidable deaths may be occurring
  • Are 58 times more likely to die before the age of 50 than other people; life expectancy is shortest for those with the greatest support needs and the most complex and/or multiple conditions
  • Do not have the same access to health services as other people
  • Have higher levels of unmet need and receive less effective treatment than the rest of the population; they are less likely to get standard evidence-based treatments and checks; less likely to be given pain relief; and less likely to receive palliative care.
  • From a minority ethnic group have higher rates of morbidity and mortality
  • Still encounter discrimination, abuse and neglect in health services
  • Have higher rates of obesity, coronary heart disease, respiratory disease, hearing impairment, dementia, osteoporosis and epilepsy.

Some 26% of people with learning disabilities are admitted to hospital each year, compared to approximately 14% of the general population.



1. NHS Yorkshire and the Humber. Healthy Ambitions for People with Learning Disabilities. September 2010




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