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Health Status

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This chapter looks at the self-reported health status of persons with disabilities who are aged 15 years and over. For the areas of general health status, prevalence of a long-standing health condition, limitations in everyday activities and mental health status, we look at the following areas of physical and sensory difficulty by whether the person has a lot of difficulty with the activity or cannot do the activity at all. Accordingly, the definition of disability in this publication is those persons that have a lot of a difficulty with an activity (e.g. seeing) or cannot do the activity at all.

  • Difficulty in seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses
  • Difficulty in hearing what is said in a conversation with one other person in a quiet room even when using a hearing aid
  • Difficulty in hearing what is said in a conversation with one other person in a noisier room even when using a hearing aid
  • Difficulty in walking half a km on level ground without the use of any aid
  • Difficulty in walking up or down 12 steps
  • Difficulty in remembering or concentrating

Respondents could record they have one or more of the physical or sensory difficulties listed above. By comparing the State level figures from the “Irish Health Survey – Main Results” publication, we can look at the relative health position of persons with disabilities to the State average data as reported in the Main Results publication.

As the analysis which follows will outline, persons with disabilities report a poorer health status than the State average, including reporting higher levels of depression. Persons with disabilities use the services of health professionals more than the State average (apart from dental visits), and have used more preventive health services (like getting their Blood pressure checked). Unmet health care needs due to Waiting times, Transportation issues or for Affordability reasons are at higher levels in the population with disabilities aged 15 years and over than for the average of the State as a whole. Of persons with disabilities, persons with walking disabilities (a lot of difficulty in walking or cannot do it at all) consistently report the poorest health status of persons with disabilities, apart from mental health status. Here, the disability group which has Difficulty in remembering or concentrating report the poorest mental health status of all disability groups, which is well in excess of the State average.

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A quarter of persons with any of the disabilities surveyed report that their health status is Bad or Very Bad, which is well in excess of the 4% of persons at State level who also report their health status as Bad or Very Bad. See Table 2.1 and Figure 2.1.

Three-quarters of those with a disability report they have a long-standing health condition (compared to a State average of a quarter), and 35% of those with any of the physical or sensory difficulties surveyed reported they are Severely limited in carrying out everyday activities due to a health problem (compared to a State average of 5% of persons aged 15 years and over). See Table 2.1.

Show Table: Table 2.1 Health indicators of persons aged 15 years and over by type of physical or sensory difficulty, 2019

Very good or goodFairBad or very bad
State85124
Persons with any type of physical or sensory difficulty383725
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Over 4-in-10 (43%) of persons aged 15 years and over with disabilities report some form of depression, well above the State average of 14%. In particular, 9% of persons with a disability report suffering from Moderately severe or severe depression, over four times the average State level of 2%. See Table 2.1, Figures 2.2 and 2.3.

Mental health statusState
Moderate
depression
3
None to
minimal
depression
86
Moderately
severe
or severe
depression
2
Mild
depression
9
Mental health statusPersons with any type of physical or sensory difficulty
Moderate
depression
12
None to
minimal
depression
57
Moder-
ately
severe
or severe
depres-
sion
9
Mild
depres-
sion
22

Persons with Difficulties in remembering or concentrating report the highest levels of depression of those with disabilities, with only 20% of them reporting None to minimal levels of depression, with the other disability categories reporting that at least half of them (48% for those with Difficulties walking up or down 12 steps) had None to minimal levels of depression. The differences in depression levels between the different disability types is more pronounced for the more severe levels of depression – 31% of those who indicated they had a lot of Difficulty with remembering or concentrating or cannot do it all, report they have Moderately severe or severe depression, well in excess of the next highest grouping (10% of persons with Difficulty hearing what is said in a quiet room or Difficulty in walking half a km). See Table 2.1 and Figure 2.4.

None to minimal depressionMild depressionModerate depressionModerately severe or severe depression
Difficulty in seeing5125159
Difficulty in hearing what is said in a quiet room6520510
Difficulty in hearing what is said in a noisier room671887
Difficulty in walking half a km51261410
Difficulty in walking up or down 12 steps4828149
Difficulty in remembering or concentrating20222831
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A fifth (20%) of persons with disabilities who indicated a physical difficulty with walking (either Difficulty walking half a km or Difficulty walking up or down 12 steps) indicate that their health status is Very good or good. This level is far below the health status reports for other disability types – around half of persons with hearing difficulties report their health status as being Very good or good, while 39% of those with sight difficulties so reportSee Table 2.1 and Figure 2.5. 

Persons with walking difficulties also report relatively high levels of having a long-standing health condition (85% of those who report having a lot of difficulty with walking or cannot do it all). Only persons with Difficulties remembering or concentrating report higher levels of having a long-standing health condition (at 89% of this group). See Table 2.1.

Difficulty in seeingDifficulty in hearing what is said in a quiet roomDifficulty in hearing what is said in a noisier roomDifficulty in walking half a kmDifficulty in walking up or down 12 stepsDifficulty in remembering or concentrating
Very good or good394952202037
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Persons with disabilities report visiting health professionals more than the State average, apart from visits to dentists. See Table 2.2 and Figure 2.6. 

At State level, around three-quarters of persons aged 15 years and over report visiting a GP in the 12 months prior to survey, compared to 93% of persons with a disability. Persons with walking difficulties report the highest level of visits to GPs with almost all of them (96%) reporting they had visited with a GP in the 12 months prior to survey. See Table 2.2.

At State level, 57% of persons aged 15 years and over reported they visited with a dentist or orthodontist in the 12 months prior to survey – this compares to 43% of those with a disability. Persons with walking difficulties report the lowest levels of visits to a dentist or orthodontist (35-37% of the walking difficulties groups), with around half of persons with hearing difficulties reporting they visited with a dentist or orthodontist. See Table 2.2.

Persons with a disability attend mental health professionals (Psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist) more than the State average – 9% of persons with a disability compared to 5% of persons aged 15 years and over at State level. Persons who have a lot of Difficulty with remembering or concentrating, or cannot do it all, attend mental health professionals more than the other disability types – 28% of persons with this disability attended a mental health professional in the 12 months prior to survey. See Table 2.2.

Show Table: Table 2.2 Persons aged 15 years and over that visited health professionals in the previous 12 months by type of physical or sensory difficulty, 2019

GP ConsultationDental or orthodontic consultationMedical or surgical consultant visitPhysiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor visitPsychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist
State765731195
Persons with any type of physical or sensory difficulty934356259
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At State level, 44% of persons aged 15 years and over report using prescribed medications in the two weeks prior to interview. Persons with disabilities report that 84% of them used prescribed medications in the two weeks prior to interview. Persons with walking difficulties are the disability group who most use prescribed medications – c.95% of this disability group. See Table 2.3 and Figure 2.7.

Show Table: Table 2.3 Use of prescribed and non-prescribed medicines in the two week prior to interview of persons aged 15 years and over by type of physical or sensory difficulty, 2019

StatePersons with any type of physical or sensory difficultyDifficulty in seeingDifficulty in hearing what is said in a quiet roomDifficulty in hearing what is said in a noisier roomDifficulty in walking half a kmDifficulty in walking up or down 12 stepsDifficulty in remembering or concentrating
Used prescription medicine in past 2 weeks4484828375949582

At State level, 31% of persons aged 15 years and over report using non-prescribed medications in the two weeks prior to survey. Only the disability group Difficulty in remembering or concentrating report non-prescribed medication use at levels more than the State average (33% of this group), with the walking disability groups reporting the lowest use of non-prescribed medications (c. a quarter of these disability groups). See Table 2.3.

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Around a quarter (26%) of persons with disabilities report having unmet health care needs in the 12 months prior to interview due to waiting times, compared to a State average of 14% of persons aged 15 years and over. Persons with Difficulties in seeing report the highest levels of unmet health care needs due to waiting times (at 34% of this group), with persons with walking difficulties reporting the lowest levels of persons with disabilities for having unmet health care needs due to waiting times (c.24% of the walking with difficulties groups). See Table 2.4 and Figure 2.8.

Show Table: Table 2.4 Persons aged 15 years and over that had unmet health care needs in the 12 months prior to interview by type of physical or sensory difficulty and reason for unmet needs, 2019

Unmet health care needs due to waiting times
State14
Persons with any type of physical or sensory difficulty26
Difficulty in seeing34
Difficulty in hearing what is said in a quiet room29
Difficulty in hearing what is said in a noisier room26
Difficulty in walking half a km23
Difficulty in walking up or down 12 steps24
Difficulty in remembering or concentrating28

At State level, 2% of persons aged 15 years and over report Transportation or distance problems as reasons for unmet health care needs. However, rates for persons with disabilities are higher – 6% of persons with any disability report Transportation or distance problems as a reason for unmet health care needs, with the disability group Difficulty with remembering or concentrating reporting the highest levels for persons with disabilities, at 8% of persons in this group. See Table 2.4 and Figure 2.9.

Unmet health care needs due to transportation or distance
State2
Persons with any type of physical or sensory difficulty6
Difficulty in seeing5
Difficulty in hearing what is said in a quiet room5
Difficulty in hearing what is said in a noisier room6
Difficulty in walking half a km7
Difficulty in walking up or down 12 steps7
Difficulty in remembering or concentrating8
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At State level, 5% of persons aged 15 years and over report unmet Medical care needs due to affordability.  However, persons with a disability report that 9% of them have similar unmet Medical care needs due to affordability. Persons with Difficulties in seeing report the lowest levels for unmet Medical care needs for affordability of persons with disabilities (at 5% of this group), with persons with Difficulty with remembering or concentrating reporting the highest levels for persons with disabilities (at 12% of this group). See Table 2.5 and Figure 2.10.

Show Table: Table 2.5 Persons aged 15 years and over that had unmet health care needs in the previous 12 months due to affordability by type of physical or sensory difficulty, 2019

StatePersons with any type of physical or sensory difficultyDifficulty in seeingDifficulty in hearing what is said in a quiet roomDifficulty in hearing what is said in a noisier roomDifficulty in walking half a kmDifficulty in walking up or down 12 stepsDifficulty in remembering or concentrating
Unmet medical care due to affordability595118101112

Across the different medical services analysed, persons with Difficulties in seeing consistently report the lowest levels of unmet health care needs (with the exception of Mental health care) of persons with a disability due to affordability reasons, and persons with Difficulty with remembering or concentrating reporting the highest levels for persons with disabilities. In particular, 15% of persons with Difficulty with remembering or concentrating report that they have unmet Mental health care needs for affordability reasons (compared to 2% for the State average). See Table 2.5.

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Across the preventive service analysed and presented in Table 2.6, persons with disabilities report they have used preventive services more than the State average – for example, 63% of persons with a disability report having a flu vaccine in the 12 months prior to survey, compared to a State average of 37% of persons aged 15 years and over. See Table 2.6 and Figure 2.11.

Show Table: Table 2.6 Preventative service usage in the previous 12 months of persons aged 15 years and over by type of physical or sensory difficulty, 2019

StatePersons with any type of physical or sensory difficulty
Had the flu vaccination in the previous 12 months3763

Over 9-in-10 of persons with walking difficulties report having their Blood pressure measured in the 12 months prior to survey, compared to two-thirds of persons aged 15 years and over at State level. Across the preventive services analysed, persons with Difficulty with remembering or concentrating reported the lowest levels (apart from Colonoscopy treatment and Faecal Occult Test) for persons with disabilities in accessing preventive services, with the difference most noticeable in having Blood cholesterol measured. Here persons with Difficulty with remembering or concentrating reporting that 63% of them had it measured in the 12 months prior to survey, a full 15 percentage points below the average for the disability group as a whole (where 78% of persons with disabilities reported they had their Blood cholesterol measured). See Table 2.6.

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Respondents were asked their weight and height from which a Body Mass Index (BMI) was then calculated. Based on this, persons with disabilities reported that 63% of them were Overweight or Obese. This is higher than the State average of 56% of persons aged 15 years and over. A quarter (26%) of persons aged 15 years and over are reporting as being Obese at the State level, with 37% of persons with disabilities so reporting. See Table 2.7 and Figure 2.12.

Show Table: Table 2.7 Body Mass Index (BMI) of persons aged 15 years and over by type of physical or sensory difficulty, 2019

UnderweightNormal weightOverweightObese
State4413026
Persons with any type of physical or sensory difficulty4342637
Difficulty in seeing2373725
Difficulty in hearing what is said in a quiet room3441933
Difficulty in hearing what is said in a noisier room1362538
Difficulty in walking half a km5342635
Difficulty in walking up or down 12 steps5292740
Difficulty in remembering or concentrating5402134

Of the disability groups, persons who have Difficulty walking up or down 12 steps report the highest levels for being Overweight or Obese (67% of this group), while the disability group Difficulty in hearing what is said in a conversation with one other person in a quiet room, reports the lowest levels at 52% of this group. See Table 2.7.

Go to next chapter: Personal Care and Activity Difficulties