Stat of the day: Activity limitations in local authorities

By Angela Matthews

The Office for National Statistics has released more data on “activity limitations” within different local authorities this morning. I’m not going to comment on the different locations at the moment as the data is vast, but there are some interesting observations on age and gender. The data looks at England and Wales (i.e. not all of the UK) in 2011.

The question asked is, “Are your day-to-day activities limited because of a health problem or disability which has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months?” A fifth of respondents said that they were. A large number considering that we are just looking England and Wales.

Respondents are then asked to determine if their daily activities are limited “a little” or “a lot”. 20.5 per cent said they were limited a little, and 18 per cent said they were limited a lot. Whether or not “substantial” adverse effect (the wording used in the Equality Act’s definition of ‘disability’) kicks in at “a little” or “a lot”, I’m not sure.

The data shows that gender divides within limitations begin to occur at around the age of 75 – almost 20 per cent of women report a limitation and almost 19 per cent of men. The explanations for this are reported to be around women having higher incidences of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis that can lead to other problems (such as falls and mobility difficulties). Other conditions also common among older women are depression and back problems.

Stat of the day: Mental health in older age

By Angela Matthews

The World Health Organisation (WHO) continues to consider age and disability – particularly mental health in older age.

The WHO gives examples of factors in age that may impact and/or contribute to disability or long-term conditions. These examples include that for those who already have a disability when they reach older age (which, I’m afraid, the WHO considers to be anyone over the age of 60), limited mobility and pain can increase. For others, a number of social factors can feature – grief and bereavement or reduced income due to retirement, for example. The WHO warn that such factors can lead to isolation and loss of independence. What evidence do statistics give for this? (Note: The following represent disability worldwide.)

  • 20 per cent of older people have a mental health or neurological condition – the two most common being depression and dementia. This accounts for almost 7 per cent of older people’s disabilities;
  • Anxiety affects almost 4 per cent of people over 60;
  • Depression affects 7 per cent of people over 60;
  • 25 per cent of all deaths by self-harm are of people over the age of 60.

The WHO also notes that those with heart disease have higher rates of depression. This is an important observation on the relationship between mental and physical health and how, where a mental health condition such as depression goes untreated or is not given the appropriate attention, the positive or ‘successful’ outcome of the physical condition can be limited.

One of the WHO’s recommendations for trying to prevent mental health problems in older age is to encourage “active and healthy ageing” which, they say, should allow for integrated and balanced lifestyles. As there are an increasing number of people in the UK who remain in employment much beyond the age of 60, it is worth employers considering how their own policies and practices may be affected by older workers requesting to work flexibly to help achieve a better work/life balance. From next year, flexible working rights will be extended to allow anyone to make a flexible working request (i.e. not just those with parenting or caring responsibilities). How this will be managed by employers, or if there will be any increase in requests from older workers at all, we are yet to see.

Stat of the day: Falling numbers of those with MS

By Angela Matthews

A recent study from the University of Dundee has shown that although the number of people being newly diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is falling, the number of people already living with the condition is rising. This is thought to be due to an ageing population where people are living longer with the condition. The research also showed that 72 per cent of people with MS are women and a diagnosis of MS is most common during the age of 4O – 50. You can read the news article here