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Disability: key points

  • Disability is difficult to define and, therefore, the prevalence of disability is difficult to measure; however, it is critical to do both for reasons of policy, service provision and planning.
  • It is important to understand the different definitions, and perceptions, of disability. 'Individual' definitions focus on the person and their impairment and functioning, whereas 'social' definitions emphasise the restrictions imposed upon the person by their social and physical environment.

  • In May 2016, 8% of adults aged 16-64 years in Scotland were classed as unable to work due to illness/disability and in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance (this amounted to 272,330 people).

  • In 2015, it was estimated that 32% of adults (aged 16 years and over) in Scotland had a limiting long-term physical or mental health condition or illness, while 8 of adults self-rated their health as 'bad' or 'very bad'.

  • The proportion of adults rating their health as 'bad' or 'very bad', or reporting a limiting long-term health condition or illness, increases as area deprivation increases.


Section updates:

  • The last major update of this section was completed in December 2016.
  • The next major update is due to be carried out by end December 2017.
Page last updated: 22 December 2016

© Scottish Public Health Observatory 2014