About learning disabilities


For children and young people, the prevalence rate of a diagnosable mental disorder is 36% in children and adolescents with learning disabilities, compared with 8% of those who did not have a learning disability. These young people were also 33 times more likely to be on the autistic spectrum and were much more likely than others to have emotional and conduct disorders according to Foundation for People with Learning Disability.  

Children and young people with learning disabilities are much more likely than others to live in poverty, to have few friends and to have additional long term health problems and disabilities such as epilepsy and sensory impairments. All these factors are positively associated with mental health problems.

People with learning disabilities demonstrate the complete spectrum of mental health problems, with higher prevalence than found in those without learning disabilities. Below are some important findings of the prevalence of mental health issues and co-exisiting learning disability:

  • The prevalence of dementia is much higher amongst older adults with learning disabilities compared to the general population (21.6% vs 5.7% aged 65+) (Source: Cooper, 1997a)
  • People with Down's syndrome are at particularly high risk of developing dementia, with an age of onset 30-40 years younger than the general population (Source: Holland et al., 1998).
  • Prevalence rates for schizophrenia in people with learning disabilities are approximately three times greater than for the general population (3% vs 1%) (Source: Doody et al., 1998)
  • Reported prevalence rates for anxiety and depression amongst people with learning disabilities vary widely, but are generally reported to be at least as prevalent as the general population (Source: Stavrakaki, 1999), and higher amongst people with Down's syndrome (Source: Collacott et al., 1998)
  • Challenging behaviours (aggression, destruction, self-injury and others) are shown by 10%-15% of people with learning disabilities, with age-specific prevalence peaking between ages 20 and 49 (Source: Emerson et al.,2001)

(All stats taken from Understanding Intellectual Disability and Health). 

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