The health of parents with and without intellectual impairment in the UK

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Abstract

Background

Little is known about the health and well-being of the ‘hidden majority’ of parents with mild intellectual disability (ID), who are less likely to be in contact with disability services.

Method

We sought to add to knowledge in this area by examining the health and living conditions of parents with and without intellectual impairment in a large contemporary nationally representative sample of UK parents aged between 16 and 49 years old (n = 14 371).

Results

Our results indicated that, as expected, parents with intellectual impairment were at significantly greater risk than other parents of having poorer self-reported general, mental and physical health. They were also at significantly greater risk of experiencing higher rates of household socio-economic disadvantage and environmental adversities and lower rates of neighbourhood social capital and intergenerational support. Adjusting risk estimates to take account of between group differences in household socio-economic disadvantage eliminated statistically significant differences in health status between parents with and without intellectual impairment on all but one indicator (obesity). Further adjusting risk estimates to take account of between group differences in neighbourhood adversity, neighbourhood social capital and intergenerational support had minimal impact on the results.

Conclusions

That controlling for between-group differences in exposure to socio-economic disadvantage largely eliminated evidence of poorer health among parents with intellectual impairment is consistent with the view that a significant proportion of the poorer health of people with IDs may be attributable to their poorer living conditions rather than biological factors associated with ID per se.

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