We know that people with learning disabilities have a higher risk of a range of health conditions. Studies in the UK have shown that they have a shorter life expectancy with increased risk of early death compared to the general population, and health screening by GPs has shown significantly high levels of unmet physical and mental health needs
The researchers in this Canadian study were interested in comparing the the prevalence of chronic health conditions between people with and without learning disabilities.
What they did was look at health-related data for 791 people with learning disabilities, which were collected through a postal survey in Quebec. Then they compared the distribution of chronic health conditions reported to data on the health status of the general population.
What they found was that people with learning disabilities had higher reported rates of heart disease and thyroid disorder than the general population, but were much less likely to report suffering from arthritis, migraines, back/spinal pain or food allergies.
When they looked at breaking down the data by cause of learning disability, they found some significant health differences, not surprisingly for example in relation to people with Down syndrome. There were also significant differences relating to the severity of learning disability.
A Comparison of the Prevalence of Chronic Disease Among People with and Without Intellectual Disability, Morin D et al., in American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 117, 6, 455-463