3. COVID-19 mortality rates and people with learning/intellectual disabilities
Sections 1 and 2 have considered the high risk of death from COVID-19 disabled people are likely to face. In section 3 we will consider how this risk impacts people with learning/intellectual disabilities.
The Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory (SLDO) have produced research looking at COVID-19 mortality rates for people with learning disabilities in Scotland. NRS provided access to 2011 Census records for 17,173 people with learning/intellectual disabilities and 195,859 with no learning/intellectual disabilities, and this was linked with death registrations, hospital records and COVID-19 testing data from the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland (24 January to 15 August 2020). The research found that of this Census sample there were 36 deaths from COVID-19 in the learning/intellectual disabilities population, compared with 199 deaths amongst the general population. Overall, people in the learning/intellectual disabilities population were more than 3 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those in the general population.
In addition, the SLDO research demonstrated that people with learning/intellectual disabilities were twice as likely as those in the general population to become infected with COVID-19. People with learning/intellectual disabilities were also twice as likely to experience a severe outcome of COVID-19 infection, resulting in hospitalisation and/or death.
SLDO also looked at whether more people with learning disabilities had died in 2020 from all causes than in other years. Deaths from all causes in adults with learning/ intellectual disabilities increased by 23% in the period 24th January to 15th August 2020, compared to 21% in adults who do not have learning/intellectual disabilities.
Early studies in England have found similar evidence that people with learning disabilities have up to 3.6 higher COVID-19 mortality rates than those with no learning disabilities. There is a difference in age at death between COVID-19 deaths in the general population compared to people with learning disabilities. In the general population of England and Wales, almost half (47%) of deaths from COVID-19 were in people aged 85 years and over. Of all deaths of people with learning disabilities from COVID-19, just 4% were aged 85 years and over.
A more recent study from ONS demonstrates that in England, in the period 24 January to 20 November 2020, also showed that people with a learning disability had a statistically significantly higher rate of COVID-19 mortality than those who did not have a learning disability. The mortality rate for men with a learning disability was 3.5 times the rate of men without a learning disability, and for women with a learning disability the rate was 4 times higher than for women without a learning disability. After adjusting for age the mortality rate for both men and women with learning disabilities were 3.7 times compared to people without learning disabilities.
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