Health and healthcare for people with disabilities in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic16 September 2021
BACKGROUND: While emerging evidence shows increased mortality from COVID-19 among people with disability, evidence regarding whether there are disability-related inequalities in health during the pandemic is lacking. OBJECTIVE: This study compares access to COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related health care and mental health of people with and without disability. METHODS: Longitudinal analysis of 12,703 adults (16-64 years) who participated in W9 (2017-2019) and the April and/or May COVID-19 special surveys of the UK Understanding Society study. Descriptive analyses and Poisson regression (adjusted for age, gender, ethnicity and financial stress) were conducted to estimate associations between disability (measured at Wave 9) and a number of different COVID-19-related health and health care outcomes (COVID-19 symptoms, testing and hospitalisation), mental health and loneliness, and non-COVID-19 related health care (e.g. outpatient and inpatient hospital care, prescription medications). RESULTS: Results from the fully-adjusted regression models found that people with disability were more likely: to be hospitalised if symptomatic (adjusted PRR 3.0 95% 1.07-8.43); to experience current symptoms of psychological distress (PRR 1.15, 95% CI 1.05-1.26) and to report being lonely (PRR 1.75, 95% CI 1.46-2.09) compared to non-disabled people. People with disability reported much higher levels of comorbidities than people without disability. However, inability to access health care and treatment were similar. CONCLUSIONS: As the UK opens up, it is important that health care services and social policy address the poor mental health and social isolation of people with disability so that the inequalities occurring early in the pandemic do not become further entrenched.