Your web browser is outdated and may be insecure

The RCN recommends using an updated browser such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome

man using arm cycle gym equipment

Physical health and learning disabilities

The Learning Disability Mortality Reviews have highlighted well that people with learning disabilities face huge health inequalities, and die 20-30 years earlier than those without learning disabilities (University of Bristol, 2015-2020).

Health inequalities are a result of multiple factors, such as:

  • biological and genetic causes
  • diet and lifestyle
  • socio-economic status
  • access to healthcare
  • communication
  • diagnostic overshadowing.

Diagnostic overshadowing is when one presentation overrides our ability to see beyond this. For example, a person with learning disabilities and limited verbal communication may present as hitting the side of their face. A health professional may not see beyond the behaviour itself and attribute the reason for this behaviour to be associated with learning disabilities, meaning that they do not explore potential other causes, such as tooth pain. 

There are a number of initiatives to support people with learning disabilities to have health equality. These include:

  • annual health checks at the GP surgery
  • a GP learning disability register
  • learning disability nursing GP liaison roles
  • learning disability nursing hospital liaison roles.

Page last updated - 29/01/2024