Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Prevalence and general health status of people with intellectual disabilities in Scotland: a total population study
  1. Laura Anne Hughes-McCormack1,
  2. Ewelina Rydzewska1,
  3. Angela Henderson1,
  4. Cecilia MacIntyre2,
  5. Julie Rintoul3,
  6. Sally-Ann Cooper1
  1. 1 Institute of Health and Wellbeing, College of Medicine, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2 National Records of Scotland, Scottish Government, Edinburgh, UK
  3. 3 Health and Social Care Analysis, Scottish Government, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Sally-Ann Cooper, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Mental Health and Wellbeing group, 1st Floor Administrative Building, Gartnavel Royal Hospital, 1055 Great Western Road, Glasgow, G12 0XH, UK; Sally-Ann.Cooper{at}


Background Prevalence of intellectual disabilities varies considerably between studies. People with intellectual disabilities experience health inequalities, but most studies comprise small or incomplete populations. We investigated in a whole country population the (1) prevalence of intellectual disabilities and (2) general health status compared with the general population.

Method Data were from Scotland’s Census, 2011. We calculated the prevalence of intellectual disabilities, reported general health status of people with and without intellectual disabilities and the extent of health-related limitations to daily activities. We conducted logistic regressions to determine the ORs of intellectual disabilities predicting poor health and associations with age and gender.

Results Of Scotland’s 5 295 403 population, 26 349 (0.5%) had intellectual disabilities; 15 149 (57.5%) were males and 11 200 (42.5%) were females; 5234 (0.6%) were children/youth (0–15) and 21 115 (0.5%) were adults (16–75+ years). Identification of intellectual disabilities rises until age 5 years, with a further small rise by age 9 years. Children and adults with intellectual disabilities reported more poor health (47.9% and 40.3%) than the general population (2.1% and 13.8%) and were more limited in activities by their health. Intellectual disabilities had an OR of 43.2 (95% CI 40.8 to 45.7) in predicting poor health; the influence of increasing age on poor health was markedly interacted by presence of intellectual disabilities, likely to be due to a ‘healthy survivor’ effect within the intellectual disabilities population.

Conclusion People with intellectual disabilities have poorer general health than other people, especially children and young people. Accurate information on population prevalence and health status is essential to plan appropriate resources.

  • health inequalities
  • health status
  • Intellectual disabilities

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors LAH-M contributed to the study design, the analysis and interpretation of data, drafted the first article and revised it critically; ER contributed to the study analysis and interpretation of data and revised the article critically; AH, CM, JR contributed to study design, interpretation of data and revised the article critically; S-AC conceived and designed the study, contributed to study analysis, interpretation of data and revised the article critically. All authors approved the final version.

  • Funding Scottish Government via the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Approval was gained from the Public Benefit and Privacy Panel for Health and Social Care.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Linked Articles