Living conditions of adults with intellectual disabilities from a gender perspective

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BackgroundThe role of gender has been a neglected issue in research on intellectual disability (ID). People with ID are generally treated as a homogenous group that are largely categorized by their level of ID. This study compared living conditions of women and men with ID and related the results to similarities and differences among the general population in corresponding age groups.MethodsPersons with ID born in Uppsala County between 1959 and 1974 constituted the study sample. Information on the living conditions of 110 persons with ID was collected using questionnaires completed by relatives and staff. Information on living conditions of the general population was obtained through national welfare statistics conducted by Statistics Sweden (SCB).ResultsIn both samples corresponding diversities were revealed for type of employment/daily activities, where women worked in traditional female job sectors and men were occupied with traditional male jobs. Women and men with ID participated to about the same extent in recreational and cultural activities and on only four of the 19 activities listed in the questionnaire (visits to the cinema and library, reading books and practising hobbies alone) significant differences were observed. Among women and men in the general population, we found gender-related differences in 13 of the activities listed. However, with the exception of women more frequently visiting the library and reading books, the two samples demonstrated no corresponding gender-related differences. For the remaining six domains (finances, family and social relations, housing, transport, community participation and personal safety), no differences were noted between women and men with ID. This finding contrasted sharply with the differences found between women and men in the general population.ConclusionsSurprisingly, the comparison yielded few differences in living conditions between women and men with ID compared with those found in women and men of the general population. This finding suggests that people with ID were treated as gender-neutral persons rather than as women and men with individual preferences and needs. Thus, it appears that having ID is a more important determinant than gender regarding living conditions for women and men with ID.

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