Facts on Disability

Scottish Government disability awareness:

  • Around one fifth of Scotland's population – that’s one million people – define themselves as disabled. Yet disabled people often experience higher levels of inequality compared to their non-disabled peers.
  • Only about 50% of disabled people of working age are in work compared to 80% of non-disabled people of working age.
  • Employment rates vary greatly according to the type of impairment a person has. People with a mental health condition considered a disability have the lowest employment rate of all impairment categories (21%). The employment rate for people with learning disabilities is 26%.


Disability is not a minority issue, as demonstrated by the following statistics:

  • Disabled people make up 10% of the population, around 650 million people (Source: World Health Organisation).

  • 39 million disabled people in Europe (Source: CSR Europe).

  • 11 million disabled people in Britain (Source: Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit).

  • Over 7 million people or 18% of the working-age population in Britain are disabled as defined as by the Equality Act 2010 (Source: Employers' Forum on Disability).

  • Only 17% of disabled people were born with their disabilities (Source: Institute for Public Policy Research article Work for disabled people).

  • Britain's disabled people are estimated to spend £80 billion per year (Source: DWP).

  • 2% of the working age population becomes disabled every year, 78% of disabled people acquire their impairment aged 16 or older (Source: Employers' Forum on Disability).

  • One in four people will be affected by mental ill health in the course of their life (Source: Mind).

  • One in six people of the working age population (aged 16 to 64) in Europe has either a long-standing health problem or a disability (Source: Employers Forum on Disability).

  • One in four men and one in five women will suffer a critical illness before they are 65 (Source: Health insurance: the online guide to critical illness insurance).

  • Disability is estimated to affect 10 per cent to 20 per cent of every country's population, a percentage that is expected to grow because of poor health care and nutrition early in life, growing elderly populations and violent civil conflicts (Source: CSR Europe).

  • Only 8 per cent of disabled people in the UK use a wheelchair (Source: CSR Europe, ‘Disability: facts and figures' 2007).
  • 25% of the entire population is either directly or indirectly affected by a disability (Source: UN and World Bank).


Build your knowledge on disability - Source: http://odi.dwp.gov.uk/

General Facts and Figures:

  • In Britain over 10 million people have a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability - this is over 18 per cent of the population.
  • The most common types of impairment for adults in Britain are those associated with a difficulty in mobility, lifting and carrying.
  • Disabled children are more likely to have a mental condition like learning or communication difficulties, rather than a physical impairment.
  • The occurrence of disability increases with age - around 1 in 20 children are disabled, compared to around 1 in 7 working age adults and almost 1 in 2 people over state pension age.
  • One in four disabled people have two impairments and one in ten have three or more impairments.
  • The likelihood of multiple impairments increases with age.

Education and Employment:

  • Disabled people are fifty per cent less likely to hold any formal qualification compared with non disabled people.
  • Disabled people are more likely to be unemployed than non disabled people - in 2008, 48.4 per cent of disabled people were in employment compared with 79.6 per cent of non disabled people.
  • The employment rate for disabled people has risen from 38.7 per cent in 1998 to 48.4 per cent in 2008, but this varies widely for people with different types of impairments. For example, people with diabetes as their main health condition have employment rates around 70 per cent but people who have limiting mental health conditions have employment rates below 20 per cent.


  • 25 per cent of individuals in families with at least one disabled member live in income poverty, on a before housing cost basis, compared to 16 per cent of individuals in households with no disabled member.
  • 28 per cent of children living in families with a disabled member are at risk of income poverty and material deprivation compared to 17 per cent for all children.


  • Households including a disabled person are significantly more likely to live in non-decent accommodation, compared to households with no disabled person.
  • In 2006, 27.3 per cent of households including a disabled person lived in non-decent accommodation, compared to 25.4 per cent of households with no disabled person.


  • The percentage of disabled people experiencing difficulties in accessing goods or services related to their impairment or disability has decreased from 37 per cent in 2005 to 32 per cent in 2008.
  • Around three in four people believe there is some level of prejudice in Britain towards disabled people.