Some of disabled people’s increased risk of death from Covid could be due to the discrimination they face, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has concluded.
A new study into disabled people’s Covid-related deaths in England through the three waves of the pandemic found – as previously estimated across waves one and two – that about 58 per cent of deaths between January 2020 and March 2022 were of disabled people.
The study, which for statistical reasons was only able to analyse those who died aged between 30 and 100, found there were about 78,000 deaths of disabled people* out of about 136,000 deaths in that age group in which Covid was mentioned on the death certificate.
The ONS study estimated that, after adjusting for factors such as age, pre-existing health conditions, vaccination status, and the level of deprivation of their neighbourhood, more-disabled women** were still 1.6 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than non-disabled women.
More-disabled men were 1.4 times more likely to die a Covid-related death than non-disabled men, after adjusting for all the factors.
ONS has told Disability News Service that it believes some of this extra risk of death could be due to factors such as disabled people’s different levels of access to health and transport services, information, and computers.
And it said that discrimination could have played a part in the increased number of Covid deaths of disabled people.
ONS has concluded that a large part of the overall heightened risk of death from Covid is because disabled people are “disproportionately exposed to a broad range of generally disadvantageous circumstances compared with non-disabled people”.
This is likely to include disabled people being more likely to live in deprived areas and in areas with a greater density of population, as well as being more likely to have pre-existing health conditions that make them more vulnerable to Covid.
The study found that disabled women who were less-disabled were still 1.3 times more at risk of death from Covid than non-disabled women, while less-disabled men were 1.3 times more likely to die from Covid than non-disabled men, after adjusting for the various factors.
The study also concluded that there was no statistically significant difference in the extra risk of death faced by disabled women and men through the three waves of the pandemic.
Julie Stanborough, ONS’s deputy director of health and life events, said: “Death rates involving coronavirus (COVID-19) decreased for both disabled and non-disabled people between second and third waves of the pandemic.
“However, today’s analysis shows a continued elevated risk of COVID-19 mortality in disabled people compared with non-disabled people, which remains largely unchanged across the three waves of the pandemic.
“No single factor explains this elevated risk and this analysis suggests it is down to a range of disadvantages experienced by disabled people.”
*ONS says its figures are likely to be conservative estimates because they take the disability measure from the 2011 census, so many older people who became disabled in the last decade will have been treated instead as non-disabled in its study
**The study examines the deaths of those who had described themselves in the 2011 census as “limited a little” in their daily lives by a long-term impairment or health condition (less-disabled), “limited a lot” (more-disabled), or not limited by a long-term impairment or health condition (non-disabled)
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