Disabled people more likely to feel lonely and burden on others – ONS

Jemma Crew, PA Social Affairs Correspondent
·3-min read

Disabled people are more likely to say they feel like a burden on others, are lonely, and that coronavirus is making their mental health worse, figures suggest.

About two thirds (65%) of disabled people said the pandemic was affecting their wellbeing, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Of these, a quarter said they feel like a burden on others, about half were lonely, and 67% said they are stressed and anxious.

This compares with 10% of non-disabled respondents feeling like a burden, 37% feeling lonely and 54% feeling stressed and anxious.

Impact of Covid-19 on disabled people in Great Britain
(PA Graphics)

And 46% of disabled people said the pandemic was making their mental health worse, compared with 29% of respondents without a disability.

They were also more likely than non-disabled people to say they spend too much time alone and that they have no-one to talk to about their worries.

The ONS questioned 12,856 people, including more than 3,000 disabled respondents, in three waves in February as part of its opinions and lifestyle survey looking at the impact of the pandemic on British society.

A person was considered to be disabled if they reported a long-standing illness, condition or impairment that reduces their ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

The survey found that 62% of disabled people said the pandemic was causing them a lack of freedom and independence.

More than twice as many disabled people said coronavirus has affected their health, access to non-Covid care and access to groceries, medication and other essentials.

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Some 35% said the pandemic had affected their health compared with 12% of non-disabled people, 40% said it had affected their non-Covid care, compared with 19% of non-disabled respondents, and 27% said it had affected their access to groceries, medication and essentials (versus 12%).

Non-disabled people were more likely to say their work, personal travel plans and schools and universities had been affected.

When compared with September, disabled and non-disabled people increasingly reported feeling bored, spending too much time with others in the house, and being unable to exercise as normal.

The nature of the impairment reported appeared to influence the area of life identified as being affected by the pandemic, although the ONS said these comparisons should be made with caution due to small sample sizes.

It said disabled people with a mental health, or social or behavioural impairment were more likely to report their mental health has worsened, and feeling lonely, stressed or anxious.

Concerns about health appeared to be more frequently identified by disabled people with mental health, memory, learning, stamina, and dexterity-related impairments.

Jessica Leigh, campaigns and mobilisation manager at disability equality charity Scope, said: “Many disabled people have spent a year indoors, cut off from loved ones and vital support.

“We fear that these pressures will only ramp up as the little protection shielding offered has stopped.

“As we move out of lockdown, the Government needs to make sure disabled people can get all the support they need to protect their lives, wellbeing and livelihoods.”

Leonard Cheshire director of policy Gemma Hope said: “Disabled people are clearly having a very different experience of the pandemic to non-disabled people.

“Less access to basics like medication and groceries and lower overall wellbeing is not some unavoidable consequence of a national crisis. It is a result of disability discrimination and the inequalities across society that have become amplified during this period.

“As we come out of lockdown and move into a post-Covid recovery, the Government have a chance to ensure our society truly levels up.”