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Hidden disability diagnoses have increased by 63% in the UK

To mark UK Disabilities History Awareness Month, Cool Crutches and Walking Sticks, an innovative mobility aid company, reveals a 63% increase in hidden disability diagnoses in the UK. 

The study looks at government data from 2017-2022 looking at impairments that are hidden disabilities, finding a 63% increase in the last 6 years, with mental health showing the largest increase by a third (33%). 

hidden disability
  • Over 10 million people in the UK have a hidden disability
  • Only 20% of disabled people have a visible disability
  • Hidden Disability diagnoses have increased by 63% in the last 6 years

Disabled people in the UK increased by 3.9 million from 19% to 24% of the population between 2011 and 2023 and it’s estimated that 80% of these people have a hidden disability, equating to over 10 million people.

Hidden disabilities are conditions that are not immediately obvious to others. They can be physical, cognitive or mental in nature. Examining 6 years worth of government data, the biggest rise in hidden disabilities comes from mental health diagnoses, with a 33% increase since 2017.

Social and behavioural impairments are second in the ranking, accounting for 22% of diagnoses, followed by learning difficulties at 8%. Social and behavioural impairments are a broad term that encompasses a range of conditions that affect a person’s ability to interact with others and their environment.

According to the data, nearly all of the disabilities reported by children are hidden. For disabled children, the most common impairment types were social or behavioural, with half reporting this, followed by mental health (30%) and learning impairments (26%).

hidden disability

Amelia Peckham, CEO and Co-Founder of Cool Crutches & Walking Sticks comments: It is important to note that hidden disabilities can have a significant impact on a person’s life. I personally live with hidden and visible conditions and find the hidden much more complex to navigate. In turn I believe these require an equal level of resources, attention and care to support effectively in order to promote accessibility for all. Hidden conditions and disabilities can make it difficult to work, travel, learn, and form relationships. People with hidden disabilities are also more likely to experience bullying, victimisation and other negative outcomes so prioritising awareness around them is key.”

As an expert in the field of disability, Amelia Peckham believes that we need to take action to address the increase in hidden disability diagnoses, outlining ways in which businesses and society can further support people with an invisible impairment:

  1. Raising awareness of hidden disabilities

Many people are not familiar with hidden disabilities, which can lead to misunderstanding and discrimination. It is important to raise awareness of these conditions so that people can better understand and support those who are affected. For example, the sunflower lanyard can be used as an indicator of disabilities and can be particularly effective for adults with communication challenges. 

  1. Providing access to appropriate services and support

People with hidden disabilities often need specialised services and support to help them manage their condition and live a fulfilling life. It is important to ensure that these services and support are available and accessible to everyone who needs them. For people with hidden disabilities such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mental health services can be essential for managing their symptoms and improving their quality of life. 

  1. Creating a more inclusive society for people with disabilities

This includes making sure that public spaces and transportation are accessible, and that workplaces and schools are inclusive. It is also important to challenge negative attitudes and stereotypes about people with disabilities. Training and education on hidden disabilities can help people to better understand and support those whose impairments may not be visible, creating a culture of acceptance and inclusion

Images courtesy of Adobe Stock ​

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