People with disabilities ‘disproportionately affected’ by pandemic – study

Elderly people in England with physical disabilities were more lonely and anxious and experienced a greater increase in depression during the Covid-19 pandemic than able-bodied people, research shows.

The study published in The Lancet Public Health also suggested that people with disabilities had lower levels of social contact and had a poorer quality of life and sleep than those without.

Experts from University College London (UCL) said their findings revealed “a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities” during the pandemic and called for more support for vulnerable groups.

Study co-author Dr Giorgio Di Gessa, from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL, said: “We already know that people with disabilities tend to have worse mental health than people with disabilities. people without disabilities.

“But we were able to show that their distress was greater during the Covid-19 pandemic, even taking into account the pre-pandemic differences.

“Our results indicate that more attention needs to be paid to the emotional and social outcomes of people with disabilities and underscore the importance of supporting them during and after times of epidemics and enforced social isolation.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, it is vital that these neglected groups receive special attention not only to meet their physical needs, but also to cope with the disproportionate emotional consequences the pandemic has had on them.

“It is essential that health and social care providers are able to put in place care packages during and after the pandemic that take into account the importance of maintaining well-being in this vulnerable sector of society.

Scientists analyzed data from 4,887 people aged 52 and over living in England, collected in 2018/19 and from June to July 2020.

They examined whether participants had difficulties with activities of daily living (ADL disability), such as dressing or bathing, as well as reduced mobility, while mental health was assessed online or through telephone interviews. computer aided.

The results showed that about 29% of those surveyed who had a disability had had significant depressive symptoms during the early stages of the pandemic, compared to 16% of those without a disability.

Almost 16% of people with an ADL disability reported significant anxiety symptoms, compared to 7% of able-bodied people.

And about 46% of people with ADLs and mobility impairments reported trouble sleeping, compared to 39% of participants without a disability.

Researchers also found that people with disabilities were more likely to be socially isolated, with less social contact with friends and family.

Shielding was also found to impact loneliness levels, with people with disabilities being more likely to have been instructed to protect themselves.

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