ONS COVID-19 Briefing: Coronavirus and the Social Impacts on Disabled People

Indicators from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey on the social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on disabled people in Great Britain. This release uses two waves of survey results covering 24 September to 4 October 2020 and includes indicators broken down by impairment type. Insights from qualitative research commissioned by the Cabinet Office Disability Unit and conducted by Policy Lab with disabled people help illustrate how the survey indicators can be experienced by disabled people in day-to-day life.

Statistician's comment

"Our analysis from September shows that as many disabled people were worried about the impacts of the pandemic on their lives as had been the case in April.

“A particular issue for disabled people was the impact on their health among those who were not receiving the same level of medical care as they had before the pandemic. This was a different picture from the experience of non-disabled people during the coronavirus pandemic.”

 

Key points:

  • 83% of disabled people compared with 71% non-disabled people said they were “very worried” or “somewhat worried” about the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic was having on their life in September 2020; for disabled people, but not for non-disabled people, this is a similar level to that reported earlier in the pandemic (86% and 84% respectively in April 2020).
  • Being in a local lockdown area or not did not seem to have affected the level of worry (“very worried” or “somewhat worried”) reported by disabled people in September 2020, with similar levels reported by disabled people in a local lockdown area (81%) compared with those who were not (84%).
  • 50% of disabled people who were receiving medical care before the coronavirus pandemic began, indicated that they were either currently receiving treatment for only some of their conditions (29%), or that their treatment had been cancelled or not started (22%), compared with 27% of non-disabled people who had a physical or mental health condition or illness and were receiving care before the pandemic.
  • 45% of those disabled people who had reported receiving a reduced level of treatment or had their treatment cancelled in September 2020 reported that they felt their health had worsened in this time; in July 2020 this was 25%.
  • Disabled people reported more frequently than non-disabled people in September 2020 that the coronavirus pandemic is affecting their well-being because it makes their mental health worse (41% for disabled people and 20% for non-disabled people)
  • Worries about the future is amongst the most frequently cited ways well-being has been affected for both disabled (68%) and non-disabled people (64%) in September 2020; however, disabled people were less optimistic about the future than non-disabled people, with 11% of disabled people thinking life will never return to normal compared with 5% of non-disabled people.

Context:

Disabled people's concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic

83% of disabled people said they were “very worried” or “somewhat worried” about the effect that the COVID-19 was having on their life, in September 2020. This proportion is smaller for non-disabled people at 71%.

The proportion of disabled people reporting such worry in September 2020 (83%) was higher than in July 2020 (75%) and May 2020 (74%) now being at a similar level to that reported early in the pandemic in April 2020 (86%).

Being in a local lockdown area did not appear to affect the level of worry reported by disabled people. In September 2020, similar levels of worry were reported by disabled people in a local lockdown area (81%) as compared with those who were not (84%).

Disabled people more often than non-disabled people indicated that the coronavirus affected their life in terms of:

  • well-being (62% for disabled people, compared with 42% for non-disabled people)
  • health (28% compared with 7%)
  • access to healthcare for non-coronavirus related issues (43% compared with 20%)
  • access to groceries, medication, and essentials (31% compared with 12%)
  • relationships (30% compared with 21%)

Disabled people less often than non-disabled people reported concerns about:

  • personal travel plans (45% for disabled people compared with 58% for non-disabled people)
  • work (24% compared with 37%)
  • schools and universities (16% compared with 28%)
  • work travel plans (6% compared with 10%)

In September 2020, disabled people (30%) indicated more often that they were worried about the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on their relationships, than non-disabled people (21%), this difference was not seen in July 2020.

Of all the worries they had, 27% disabled people were most concerned about the impact on their well-being and 13% were most concerned about the access to healthcare and treatment for non-coronavirus related issues, and a lack of freedom and independence (10%).

Access to healthcare and treatment for non-coronavirus related issues was less often identified as a main worry for non-disabled people (5%) compared with disabled people (13%), as was effect on health (1% for non-disabled people and 7% for disabled people).

Concerns about access to healthcare and treatment for non-coronavirus related issues tended to be more frequently identified as the main worry for disabled people with dexterity, mobility, stamina, vision, or other impairments.

 

Disabled people's access to healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic

50% disabled people who were receiving medical care before the COVID-19 pandemic began indicated that they were either currently receiving treatment for only some of their conditions (29%) or that their treatment had been cancelled or not started (22%), in September 2020.

Around 3 in 10 non-disabled people reported this (16% receiving treatment for only some of their conditions and for 11% treatment had been cancelled or not started).

27% of disabled people indicated that their treatment had continued as normal, compared with just 44% of non-disabled people. Similar proportions of disabled (15%) and non-disabled people (16%) indicated that their treatment had continued but had been reduced.

45% of those disabled people who had reported receiving a reduced level of treatment or had their treatment cancelled in September 2020 reported that they felt their health had worsened in this time.

 

Disabled people's Well-Being during the COVID-19 pandemic

Around 62% of disabled people reported COVID-19 affected their well-being in September 2020, which compared with 42% for non-disabled people. For disabled people this concern remained reported at a similar level to in July 2020 (58%); for non-disabled people reporting of this concern had slightly increased compared with July 2020 (37%).

 

Anxiety amongst disabled people

The average anxiety rating for disabled people was 5.0 out of 10.0, in September 2020. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic this had stood at 4.3 out of 10.0, increased to 5.5 out of 10.0 in April 2020 after the pandemic began and decreased through the pandemic to around 4.7 out of 10.0 in May and July 2020.

47% of disabled people reported high anxiety (a score of 6 out of 10 or higher) in September 2020 compared with 29% of non-disabled people.

60% of disabled people reported high anxiety early in the pandemic in April 2020. This decreased to 42% in May 2020, since when there seems to have been a gradual upward trend in the proportion of disabled people reporting high anxiety (45% in July, 47% in September) although these increases were not statistically significant. The number of non-disabled people reporting high anxiety peaked in April 2020 (41%) but has since remained consistent (29% in May, July, and September).

 

Worries about the future for disabled people

Feeling stressed or anxious, and feeling worried about the future are the well-being concerns most frequently cited by both disabled (71% and 68% respectively) and non-disabled people (59% and 64% respectively) in September 2020. In July 2020 and May 2020 these reasons were also amongst the most frequently cited reasons for well-being concerns by both disabled and non-disabled people.

Disabled people more frequently than non-disabled people indicated that the coronavirus is affecting their well-being because:

  • It makes their mental health worse (41% for disabled people and 20% for non-disabled people)
  • they are feeling lonely (45% and 32%)
  • they spend too much time alone (40% and 29%)
  • they feel like a burden on others (24% and 8%)
  • they have no one to talk to about their worries (24% and 12%)

Worries about the future was amongst the most frequently cited way well-being has been affected for both disabled (68%) and non-disabled people (64%) in September 2020.

Disabled people were less optimistic about the future in September 2020 than non-disabled people, with 11% of disabled people thinking life will never return to normal compared with only 5% of non-disabled people. For disabled people, this was a higher proportion than in July 2020 (6%), for non-disabled people this proportion had remained like in July 2020 (3%).

Disabled people were also more likely to think that their financial situation will get a lot worse over the next 12 months (9%) than non-disabled people (6%) and were less confident about being able to save any money in the next 12 months than non-disabled people. 51% of disabled people felt they would not be able to save any money in the next 12 months compared with 36% of non-disabled people.

 

Disabled people's attitudes towards plans to combat the COVID-19 pandemic

Worries about the future for disabled people could potentially be reduced by, amongst other things, people feeling that they have enough information about government plans. However, disabled people were less likely to feel that they had enough information about the government plans to manage the COVID-19 pandemic (40%) than non-disabled people (48%).

Official government plans to combat the coronavirus pandemic tended to be supported to a similar extent by both disabled and non-disabled people. For example, in September 2020, 69% of all disabled people and 65% of non-disabled people “strongly supported” or tended to support official guidance on social gathering.

Disabled people (40%) were generally more likely than non-disabled people (24%) to report that in the last seven days they had not left home or left home only to fulfil basic needs such as to work, take children to and from activities, exercise, purchase necessities or for medical need, in September 2020.