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74% of disabled people are worried about COVID-19, says ONS

Coronavirus: Research reveals concerns over wellbeing, health, and access to food and medicines

Mark Moran
16 June 2020
Source: ONS
Source: ONS


Three-quarters of disabled people are worried about the effect of coronavirus on their lives, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

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). The ONS said 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 said they were worried about:

  • the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on their wellbeing (62.4% for disabled people compared with 49.6% of non-disabled people)
  • access to groceries, medication and essentials (44.9% compared with 21.9%)
  • access to health care and treatment for non-coronavirus-related issues (40.6% compared with 21.2%)
  • their health (20.2% compared with 7.3%) in May 2020.

Concerns about wellbeing 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, according to the ONS.

Disabled adults more frequently reported their wellbeing 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, the ONS figures reveal.

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.

Some 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, the ONS says.

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%).

David Ainslie, Disability Analysis Branch, ONS, said: “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.”

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