People with learning disabilities up to 30 times more likely to die from COVID-19

New statistics released today reveal that the rate of deaths of people identified as having learning disabilities was up to 6.3 times higher than the general population on average, or more than 30 times higher for certain age groups.

Public Health England used data from the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) programme to establish the number of people with learning disabilities in England who died, definitely or possibly, from COVID-19 from the start of the pandemic to 5 June 2020.

Those with learning disabilities in the 18-34 bracket had a mortality rate of 36.3 deaths per 100,000 compared to just 1.2 per 100,000 in the general population, meaning they were more than 30 times more likely to be represented in the death figures.

COVID-19 increased the number of deaths for people with learning disabilities by a greater margin than for the general population, across all adult age groups.

However, when standardising for age and sex, the rate of COVID-19 deaths was 451 per 100,000 people with learning disabilities, 4.1 times the rate for the general population, or up to 6.3 times when adjusted for under-reporting.

LeDeR received 623 reports of deaths, which were definitely or possibly COVID-19 related, among people with learning disabilities between the beginning of February and 5 June – suggesting an estimated national total of 956 deaths.

The death rate for people with learning disabilities was 240 deaths per 100,000 adults with learning disabilities. This is 2.3 times the rate in the general population for the same period. Adjusting for under-reporting the estimated rate was 369 per 100,000 adults, which is 3.6 times the rate in the general population.

COVID-19 deaths among people with learning disabilities were spread more widely across the adult age groups than in the general population. The age bands with the largest number of deaths was 55 to 64 years for people with learning disabilities, whereas it was over 75s for the general population.

Analyses by ethnic group were limited by the small numbers of deaths of people with learning disabilities identified as being from minority ethnic groups. There was also a lack of usable statistics for the numbers of people with learning disabilities from minority ethnic groups in the population.


Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement, Public Health England said the figures were 'deeply troubling'.

“With cases developing across the country, it is essential to practice rigorous infection control if you are in contact with someone with a learning disability, whether or not they live in a care home.”

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