COVID -19



The impact of COVID -19 on people with learning/intellectual disabilities in Scotland*

Background

Information on the impact of COVID-19 on people with learning/intellectual disabilities is not routinely reported in Scotland. Due to the high rate of health inequalities, there is understandable concern that people with learning/intellectual disabilities will be at high risk of death from COVID-19. This study was set up to look at  COVID-19 infection and severe outcomes, mortality, excess deaths and case-fatality for people with learning/intellectual disabilities compared to those with no learning/intellectual disabilities during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland (24th January to 15th August 2020).

Main findings

COVID-19 mortality

We linked the Census 2011 records with death registrations, hospital records and COVID-19 testing data to investigate infection rates and outcomes of hospitalisation and/or death.

  • Records for 17,173 people with learning/intellectual disabilities and 195,859 with no learning/intellectual disabilities were analysed
  • There were 36 deaths from COVID-19 in the learning/intellectual disabilities population, compared to 199 in the general population
  • Overall, people in the learning/intellectual disabilities population were more than three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those in the general population

COVID-19 infections

  • People with learning/intellectual disabilities were twice as likely as those in the general population to become infected with COVID-19
  • People with learning/intellectual disabilities were also twice as likely to experienced a severe outcome of COVID-19 infection, resulting in hospitalisation and/or death

Excess deaths

We also looked at deaths from all causes (not just COVID-19) for the same period, 5 years before the pandemic. We compared these to the number of deaths during the first wave of the pandemic.

  • There was a 23% increase in the crude rate of deaths from all causes in adults with learning/ intellectual disabilities compared to a 21% increase in adults who do not have learning/intellectual disabilities
  • There was a very slight increase in the all-cause Standardised Mortality Ratios for people with learning/intellectual disabilities in 2020

Summary

People with learning/intellectual disabilities already experienced significantly worse health outcomes and excess mortality compared to the general population. These inequalities are reflected in the higher COVID infection rates, more severe outcomes and increased mortality experienced by adults with learning/ intellectual disabilities in the first wave of the pandemic. Further action needs to be taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection for all adults with learning/intellectual disabilities.

A pre-print version of this paper can be found here. 

*These are interim findings which have been submitted for publication in a Scientific journal for peer-review, publication and dissemination. These interim results have been provided to support policy discussions.