Health better across England and Wales in past decade, census data suggests

Health has improved across England and Wales over the past decade, latest census data suggests.

The proportion of people identified as disabled has also decreased since 2011 – although the overall number has risen, according to the findings.

After adjusting for differences in age profiles of the population between 2011 and 2021, data showed 45.5% of people in England and Wales report having very good health in the latest survey.

The percentage represents 28.8 million people – up slightly from 45% or 26.4 million people in 2011.

The census is the once-a-decade procedure of collecting data about the population to provide detailed information about national demographics.

Census Day 2021
A person completing their Census form online (Victoria Jones/PA)

Census 2021 director Jon Wroth-Smith said the survey was taken in the “unique circumstances” of a pandemic and during a time of lockdown, which may have influenced the results.

For example, there were fewer unpaid carers for those with health difficulties or disabilities but an increase in the proportion of people providing more hours of care.

This could be explained by those who previously shared responsibilities with someone else taking on the role alone due to a reduction in household mixing, he said.

“There will be further insights from the census to follow as we look at health, disability and unpaid care by topics such as deprivation and other protected characteristics, which will give us an even clearer picture across England and Wales,” Mr Wroth-Smith said.

In England, there were decreases in the proportion of people reporting good health (from 34.8% in 2011 to 34.2% to 2021), bad health from (4.6% to 4.1%) and very bad health (1.4% to 1.2%).

The North East was the region in England with the highest proportion of people reporting very bad health, at 1.6% of the population.

London’s Kensington was the healthiest area with 58% reporting very good health (Alamy/PA)
London’s Kensington was the healthiest area with 58% reporting very good health (Alamy/PA)

In Wales, there was an increase in people reporting good health (from 31.4% in 2011, to 32.5% in 2021) and decreases in the proportion of people who reported bad health (from 6.0%, to 5.1%) and very bad health (from 1.9% to 1.6%).

At the local authority level, Kensington was the healthiest area with 58% reporting very good health, while Stoke on Trent had the lowest proportion of people in the same category at 40.2%.

In both England and Wales, a smaller age-standardised proportion of people were disabled at 17.7% down from 19.3% and 21.1% down from 23.4% respectively.

But in England a larger number of people were disabled, at 9.8 million compared with 9.4 million in 2011.

In Wales, there were 670,000 disabled people in 2021 as compared with 696,000 in 2011.

The figures do not take into account disabled people who did not or could not complete the census survey.

To identify disability in England and Wales, the census asked people whether they have any physical or mental health conditions or illnesses lasting or expected to last 12 months or more.

Stoke on Trent had the lowest proportion of people in good health at 40.2% (Alamy/PA)
Stoke on Trent had the lowest proportion of people in good health at 40.2% (Alamy/PA)

If they answered yes, a further question on whether those conditions reduce the ability to carry out day-to-day activities was presented.

In England and Wales, an estimated five million usual residents provided unpaid care in 2021.

This represented an age-standardised proportion of 9.0% – a drop from 11.4% or 5.8 million in 2011.

However, there were more people providing 20 to 49 hours of unpaid care a week – from 1.5% or 775,000 people in 2011 to 1.9% or a million in 2021.

The proportion of carers doing 50 or more hours a week unpaid also increased from 2.7% or 1.4 million people in 2011 to 2.8%  or 1.5 million people in 2021.