Posted on 20/06/2019

80% of people are unaware that a learning disability is often caused by another health condition

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80% of people are unaware that a learning disability is often caused by another health condition

As part of Learning Disability Week 2019, we recently launched a nationwide survey to find out how much UK residents really know about the differences between learning disability and mental health.

The response to our recent survey has been phenomenal, with nearly 1500 people across the UK sharing their knowledge of how they view learning disability compared to mental health.

From the results, we can see that awareness of mental health, and the conditions associated with it, has improved significantly, although when it comes to knowledge of learning disability it’s clear that more work needs to be done to ensure more people are aware of the facts and not the fictions. This is especially apparent when we consider that a staggering 80% of people who took part in the survey were unaware that a learning disability is often caused by another health condition.

The numbers behind mental health

Over the past few years in particular, there has been a substantial drive across the UK to increase awareness of mental health and what a pivotal role it plays within our society. The positive results of this were reflected in our survey as, not only did 65% of respondents correctly identify that statistics show females are more likely to develop a mental health condition, but 76% of respondents also know that 1 in 4 people in the UK are affected by a mental health problem.

The most recognised mental health conditions were depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and OCD – with over 90% of survey participants selecting these answers in response to the question “Which of the following do you think are mental health conditions?”

Interestingly, 24% (nearly 400 people) believed ADHD is a mental health condition and whilst ADHD is sometimes classified into this group, leading mental health charities, such as Mind, view it as a developmental disorder and don’t consider it to be a mental health disorder, despite it occurring alongside other mental health conditions.

Another eye-opening statistic to come to light was that 20% of all those who took part in the survey were of the opinion that not everyone has mental health. This would suggest that there is still confusion in some communities between what “mental health conditions” are compared to general “mental health”.

Gaps found in the knowledge of learning disability

Our first question about learning disability related to gender and we were pleased to see that 86% of survey participants correctly identified that, according to statistics, males are more likely to have a learning disability.

48% of survey participants also knew that there are 1.5 million people are currently living with a learning disability in the UK. However, almost 40% of those who took part in the survey thought the number was as high as 5 million!

A large majority of respondents recognised autism, ADHD and Down’s syndrome as three conditions which commonly occur alongside, or as part of, a learning disability. Cerebral palsy is another condition which is often known to involve, or occur alongside, learning disabilities; however, only 53% of those who took part in the survey were aware of this fact.

Interestingly, 23% and 21% of people believe motor neurone disease (MND) and muscular dystrophy, respectively, often occur alongside, or as part of, learning disabilities but this is not the case. There was also a small minority of people who believed that a learning disability is always developed after birth, but, again, this is not correct.

Perhaps the most shocking results to come from the survey was that a whopping 80% didn’t know that a learning disability is often caused by another health condition, whilst 40% of those who took part in the survey were unaware that a person living with a learning disability will have it all their life.

These final two results in particular show that much more work needs to be done in raising awareness of what it means to be diagnosed with a learning disability and how that might affect daily life for each individual.


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