Characterisation of user-defined health status in older adults with intellectual disabilities

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Older adults with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) have an excess disease burden that standard health assessments are designed to detect. Older adults with ID have a broader concept of health with dimensions of well being in addition to absence of disease in line with the World Health Organization's health definition. We sought to characterise user-defined health status in a sample of older adults with ID.


We administered a user-led health assessment to 57 adults with ID aged 40 years and over. Cluster analysis on user-defined health themes of participation, nutrition and hygiene/self-care identified clear separation of participants into a healthier and a less healthy group.


Disease burden (P = 0.002) and medication use (P = 0.003) were greater in the less healthy group. The healthier group were taller (P = 0.005), stronger (P = 0.005) and had better vision (P < 0.001) than the less healthy group. Constipation (P = 0.014), urinary incontinence (P < 0.001) and faecal incontinence (P < 0.001) were commoner in the less healthy group. There were few significant differences between health groups on the majority of standard physical-examination items.


There is considerable overlap between user-defined health and that assessed by standard instruments. In addition, user-defined health encompasses aspects of physical fitness not captured by traditional disease-based health models.

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