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Study into respiratory-associated deaths in people with learning/intellectual disabilities

Section: The ALLIANCEType: News Item Date Published: 28th July 2021
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The study found that people with learning/intellectual disabilities are up to 11 times more likely to die from respiratory illness.

The Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory (SLDO) have published the results of a study investigating the impacts of respiratory disease on people with learning/intellectual disabilities (this link will take you away from our website).

People with learning/intellectual disabilities die up to 20 years earlier than the general population, often from avoidable causes. Respiratory disorders are a leading cause of death among people with learning/intellectual disabilities including preventable and treatable conditions such as pneumonia and aspiration, for example due to swallowing problems.

The study reviewed the respiratory-associated deaths of 1,844 people with learning/intellectual disabilities over the past 35 years. It found that mortality rates resulting from respiratory illness were 11 times higher than in the general population, and 27 times higher for pneumonia.

Many of these deaths are avoidable, and the SLDO recommend actions to address the scale of the issue including:

  • Increased awareness and training on the link between swallowing problems and pneumonia.
  • Increase uptake of flu vaccinations for people with learning/intellectual disabilities, amongst other infection-control measures
  • Lower thresholds for investigating and treating pneumonia and other respiratory infections in people with learning/intellectual disabilities by community and hospital based sepsis management programmes.
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