Learning disabled Brits die years earlier

March 21, 2013 at 12:10 AM
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BRISTOL, England, March 21 (UPI) -- People in Britain with learning disabilities are more likely to die prematurely -- by 16-20 years -- compared with the general population, researchers say.

A British Department of Health report found men with learning disabilities died, on average, 13 years sooner than men in the general population, while women with learning disabilities died, on average, 20 years sooner than women in the general population mainly because doctors do not treat them.

Overall, 22 percent of the people with learning disabilities age 50 or younger when they died, compared with 9 percent of people in the general population, the report said.

Researchers from Bristol University's Norah Fry Research Centre and School of Social and Community Medicine, with colleagues from National Health Service Bristol and the Royal College of General Practitioners reviewed the sequence of events leading to all known deaths of 233 adults with learning disabilities, 14 children with learning disabilities and 58 adults without learning disabilities who died in the study area during the same period of time.

The report found the quality and effectiveness of health and social care given to people with learning disabilities was deficient in a number of ways, and that premature deaths could be avoided by improving the quality of the healthcare.

"This report highlights the unacceptable situation in which people with learning disabilities are dying. The cause of their premature death is not, like many in the general population, due to lifestyle-related illnesses. The cause of their premature deaths appears to be because the NHS is not being provided equitably to everyone based on need," lead author Dr. Pauline Heslop of the University of Bristol Norah Fry Research Center said in a statement.

"People with learning disabilities are struggling to have their illnesses investigated, diagnosed and treated to the same extent as other people. These are shocking findings and must serve as a wake-up call to all of us that action is urgently required."

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