Little progress made on tackling premature deaths of people with learning disabilities 

3 mins read

Tuesday 19 July 2022

Tags: learning disability, premature death, annual health check

People with a learning disability continue to die much younger from preventable illness than people without a learning disability, according to a new report. 

The sixth annual Learning from lives and deaths – People with a learning disability and autistic people (LeDeR) report found six out of 10 people with a learning disability died before they reach the age of 65 compared to 1 in 10 people in the general population. 

Having epilepsy and being from an ethnic minority background were associated with earlier death in people with a learning disability. 

Pneumonia deaths decreased from 52% in 2018 to 21% in 2021. This is probably due to reduced social mixing during the Covid pandemic. 

What does the report tell us? 

Researchers from King’s College London looked at 3,304 deaths of people with a learning disability reported to the Learning from Lives and deaths programme during 2021, including 208 children aged 4 to17 and 3,096 adults aged 18 to 98.  

There were no deaths over and above what would be expected for children with a learning disability in 2021, with a 3% decrease compared to 2018-2019.  

On average, males with a learning disability die 22 years younger than males from the general population, and females 26 years younger than in the general population. There was a significant increase in deaths reported during peak periods of the COVID-19 pandemic, with spikes in April 2020 and January 2021.

The highest rates of avoidable deaths were in the North West of England and lowest in the South West. Half of all premature deaths were in areas of high deprivation. The 5 most common leading causes of death for 4- to 17-year-olds between 2018 and 2021 were congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities; cerebral palsy and other paralytic syndromes; influenza and pneumonia; epilepsy and status epilepticus; and cancers. 

What is being done to reduce preventable premature deaths

The NHS is trying to address the many factors that lead to poorer health and low life expectancy in people with a learning disability. One initiative is a big drive to increase the number of learning-disabled children on the GP learning disability register to they automatically are invited for an annual health check once they turn 14.

Find out more about Annual Health Checks for people with learning disabilities and how to register your child.

Read more about work the NHS is doing to improve the health of people with a learning disability in the LeDeR Action Learning Report 2021-22 

Easy read version: 2021 Annual Report from Learning from lives and deaths: People with a learning disability and autistic people