Why is isolation a problem?

Right now in our society, people are experiencing social isolation and barriers to their participation. It’s a major health risk and disabled and vulnerable people are often hardest hit. But with good support, innovative care and positive community connections, health and life outcomes can do much better.


That’s why Livability is working hard to deliver services and projects that help people connect with their community.

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Disability and isolation

  • Nearly 1 in 4 disabled people feel lonely on a typical day, rising to well over 1 in 3 for young disabled people aged 18 to 34. (reference here).
  • 50% of disabled people will be lonely on any given day. (reference here)
  • More than three-quarters (77 per cent) of young disabled adults feel they face greater barriers than non-disabled people in making and sustaining friendships. (reference here)
  • Two-thirds of the British public (67%) admit that they feel uncomfortable talking to disabled people. One-fifth of 18-34 year olds have actually avoided talking to a disabled person because they weren’t sure how to communicate with them. (reference here)
  • Nearly 1 in 4 - 24% - of adults with autism say they have no friends at all. (reference here)
  • 65% of adults with autism would like to have more friends. (reference here)
  • 8 out of 10 carers have felt lonely or isolated as a result of looking after a loved one. (cited in CFD, p10)
  • 30% of the disabled adult population have never used the internet, compared to 7% of non-disabled people. (reference here)
  • 70% of wheelchair users, their carers and families do not feel they can travel as independently as they would like to. (reference here)

Disability and health risks

  • Weak social connection is as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (reference here).
  • "Loneliness and poor social relationships are associated with a 29 % increase in risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) and a 32 % increase in risk of stroke." (reference here).
  • 3 out of 4 GPs say they see between 1 and 5 people a day who have come in mainly because they are lonely, and 1 in 10 sees between 6 and 10 patients daily (reference here).

Disability and unemployment

  • Disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people (reference here).
  • By the age of 26, disabled people are four times more likely to be out of work or not in education, compared to non-disabled people (reference here).
  • Early intervention is key to prevent people from falling out of work (reference here).
  • 1 in 5 employers say they'd be less likely to employ a disabled person (reference here).
  • Disabled young people aged 16-18 were at least twice as likely as their non-disabled peers to no be in education, employment or training (reference here).

Disability and poverty

  • 28% of those in poverty in the UK are disabled (3.9 million people) while a further 20% of people in poverty (2.7 million) live in a household with a disabled person. Nearly half of the poverty in the UK is therefore directly associated with disability. (reference here).
  • 31% of people in a family containing a disabled person are in poverty compared with 18% of people in a household with no disabled people. (reference here)
  • Two-thirds of disabled people living alone are in poverty. More than half of disabled private and social renters are in poverty. Meanwhile, 44% of disabled young adults are in poverty. (reference here).
  • Disability benefits reduce the chance that a low-income disabled person’s household will experience material deprivation but their material deprivation is still higher than non-disabled households’ material deprivation (33% compared with 23%). (reference here.
  • At 46%, the employment rate for disabled people is little more than half that for non-disabled people (80%). There is great variation in the disabled employment rate across the UK – yet barely any in the non-disabled rate. (reference here).
  • 73% of households containing a disabled person are working households but in nearly half of them, some of the working-age adults are not working. These ‘part-working’ households are the ones where the rate of poverty is highest. (reference here).
  • There is a big ‘skills gap’ between disabled and non-disabled people. 15% of disabled people have a degree compared with around 30% of non-disabled people. Meanwhile, 15% of disabled – but only 5% of non-disabled – 25- to 29-year-olds have no qualifications. (reference here). (reference here).
  • Disabled people face many barriers to social participation. Work and accessibility outside the home are where the difference with non-disabled people is greatest. Most disabled people face barriers accessing leisure. (reference here).
  • Prof Sir Michael Marmot said people with learning disabilities die 15-20 years earlier than other people due to poor housing, low incomes, social isolation and bullying. He said 40% of people with learning difficulties were not diagnosed in childhood - and this had to change. (reference here).

Disability and housing

  • There are 1.8 million disabled people with unmet housing needs, 580,000 of whom are of working age
  • As a result of unmet housing needs for accessible housing, disabled people are four times more likely to be unemployed or not seeking work
  • Two thirds of single disabled people living alone are in poverty

Disability and accessibility

  • The most commonly reported difficulties for disabled people in accessing goods and public services: shopping (20%), cinema/theatre/concerts (15%) pubs and restaurants (14%).
  • The main modes of transport for people with a mobility difficulty are: driving (38%), being a passenger in a car (30%) walking (16%) bus (9%) other (8%).

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