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DisabilityDisability Overview

In the Equality Act 2010, disability is defined as “if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities."

'Substantial' is defined as more than minor or trivial, e.g. it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task like getting dressed. 'Long-term' is defined as a condition lasting 12 months or more.

These conditions may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or a combination of multiple factors. Conditions causing disability may be present from birth or occur during life or may even come and go.

Hidden disabilities

Invisible disabilities are those impairments that are not immediately apparent to others. These can include neurodiversity, a mental health condition as well as mobility, sensory loss or a physical disability that causes pain, fatigue or impacts on movement. People who experience neurodiversity, interact with, and interpret the world in unique ways. Neurodiversity can include autism, dyslexia, dyscalculia, epilepsy, hyperlexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Tourette's syndrome.

Disability estimates and projections

Estimates and projections of the number of disabled people in the city have been produced using national prevalence rates applied to local population data; these suggest in 2020 there may be around 5,293 adults aged 18-64 with a moderate physical disability and a further 1,253 with a serious physical disability living in Southampton. By 2040 there are projected to be over 6,500 adults of working age with a moderate or serious physical disability in Southampton. Projecting Adult Needs and Service Information (PANSI) from Oxford Brookes University.

Modelling by Projecting Older People Population Information System (POPPI), also from Oxford Brookes University, estimates in 2020, there are 6,310 people aged 65 and over unable to manage at least one mobility activity on their own, (This estimate is adjusted for the underlying age and gender distribution). Activities include going out of doors and walking down the road; getting up and down stairs; getting around the house on the level; getting to the toilet; getting in and out of bed. This is predicted to increase to 8,631 Southampton residents aged 65 and over by 2040.

Leading causes and risk factors of disability

Years Lived with Disability (YLDs) is described as years lived in less than ideal health. This includes conditions such as influenza, which may last for only a few days, or epilepsy, which can last a lifetime. It is measured by taking the prevalence of the condition multiplied by the disability weight for that condition. Disability weights reflect the severity of different conditions and are developed through surveys of the general public.

In Southampton, the leading causes attributed to Years Lived with Disability (YLDs) are lower back pain, diabetes, depressive disorders, headache disorders and neck pain. The top five risk factors are a high body-mass index, high fasting plasma glucose (which is an indicator of a higher risk of diabetes), smoking, alcohol use or drug use. More information is available from the Global Burden of Disease.

Levels of disability in Southampton

In May 2021, data on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants amongst the under 16 years old shows that 2,739 Southampton children receive DLA.

The main three disabling conditions for children in the city can be broken down as:

  • Learning difficulties - 1,487 children (54%)
  • Behavioural Disorder – 4,64 children (16.9%)
  • Hyperkinetic Syndrome, known as ADHD – 251 children (9.2%)

There are currently 3,382 individuals known to Southampton City Council Adult Social Care as visually/hearing impaired and/or with a physical disability, living inside and outside the city boundary.

There are 3,234 residents, living in the city, who are known to adult social care as having visually/hearing impaired and/or with a physical disability:

  • 947 registered visually impaired
  • 1,111 registered hearing impaired
  • 1,385 people with general classes of physical disability

In May 2021, there were 1,277 adults aged 16 to 64 years and 1,729 adults aged 65 plus receiving DLA. The main disabling conditions are:

  • Learning difficulties - 285 adults, aged 16 to 64 (22.3%)
  • Psychosis - 150 adults, aged 16 to 64 (12.1%)
  • Arthritis - 548 adults, aged 65 plus (31.7%)
  • Back pain - 129 adults, aged 65 plus (7.5%)
  • Muscles, Bones or Joints - 114 adults, aged 65 plus (6.6%)

More information can be found in the Statistics on people living with a disability in Southampton slide set, available in the resources section below.

Multiple long-term conditions

Number of chronic conditions by age Feb 2021Multiple long-term conditions which impact mobility and day-to-day living increase with age, this is illustrated using GP data for the city.

The Care and Health Information Exchange (CHIE) estimates 10,300 residents have moderate or severe frailty and are at higher risk of adverse outcomes such as falls, disability, admission to hospital, or the need for long-term care.

  • 89.0% of people aged 0-4 have no long-term conditions
  • By aged 40-44 over half of adults have at least one long-term condition
  • By age 60-64 over a third (38%) have at least three long-terms conditions
  • Older people aged 80 to 84 over a third (34%) have at least six long-term conditions

People with a Learning Disability

In 2019/20, there were 1,402 Southampton registered patients aged 18 and over on the learning disabilities register (0.5% of registered patients – the same prevalence as England). However, there are an estimated 5,100 residents aged 15+ diagnosed and undiagnosed with a learning disability in the city. More information is available on the Learning Disabilities page.

Adults with Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC)

In 2020, it is estimated living in Southampton there are 1,200 males (1.1% of male population) and 210 females (0.2% of the female population), aged 16 years and over who would screen positive for autism spectrum conditions.

This local estimate of the prevalence of autistic spectrum conditions, ASC adults aged 16 years and over in Southampton was produced using national prevalence estimates.

Sight loss

Modelling from PANSI and POPPI predict there are 110 Southampton (in 2020) residents aged 18-64 and 1,018 residents aged 65 years and over predicted to have a serious visual impairment, by age, and this is projected to increase to 113 and 1,491 by 2040. More information can be found on the Diabetes page.

Sight impaired (SI) and severe sight impairment (SSI) replace the terms partially sighted and blind for registration purposes. In 2019/20, there were 575 registered blind or partially sighted people in Southampton (over half, n=425, were aged over and 75 years and over).

In May 2021, 133 Southampton residents (0.05%) were registered for Disability Living Allowance with the main disabling condition recorded as ‘blindness’ (higher than the national average of 0.04%). Of these residents registered with ‘blindness’ as their main disabling condition, 26 people were aged under 16 years, 44 people were aged 16 to 64 years old and 63 people were aged 65 year and over.

Diabetic retinopathy or diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of preventable sight loss in working age people in the UK and early detection through screening halves the risk of blindness.

In 2019/20 Southampton’s rate of preventable sight loss due to diabetic eye disease in those aged 12 years and over was 5.1 per 100,000 population. This is higher but not significantly than the rate for England (2.9 per 100,000).

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma are the two other types of eye disease which can result in blindness or partial sight if not diagnosed and treated in time. In 2019/20, Southampton’s rate of AMD is also higher but not significantly compared to England (112.2 per 100,000 aged 65+ compared to 105.4 per 100,000 aged 65+ respectively). Southampton’s rate of preventable sight loss due to glaucoma is higher but not significantly to the rate for England (18.1 per 1000,000 aged 40+ compared to 12.9 per 100,000 aged 40+ respectively).

Hearing loss and deafness

Infants have their hearing checked within hours of birth through the newborn infant screening programme. In 2019/20, 98.3% of infants in Southampton were correctly screened within 5 weeks of birth.

Since 2010, the number of people registered deaf or hard of hearing has not been published. NHS England have produced a tool to estimate hearing loss by local authority and CCG. The tool estimates in 2020, the number of adults with hearing loss of 25 dBHL (Decibels Hearing Level) was 34,440 (17,240, aged 18 to 70 and 17,200 aged over 70 years) are expected to increase to 42,900 by 2035. The 2020/21 GP patient survey estimates 4.7% of the GP registered population reporting deafness or severe hearing loss, which is around 5,500 people.

In May 2021, 87 Southampton residents were registered for Disability Living Allowance with the main disabling condition recorded as ‘deafness’. Of these residents registered with ‘deafness’ as their main disabling condition, 41 people were aged under 16 years, 27 people were aged 16 to 64 years old, and 16 people were aged 65 years and over.


Statistics on people living with a disability in Southampton

The slide set collates data of those people with disabilities in Southampton. There is no current single source available to establish how many people have disabilities in the city. The resource brings together data sources recording those people known to have disability, by the council, the Department for Work and Pensions and GP practices. Estimates and projections by applying national prevalence have also been included.

Statistics on people living with a disability in Southampton
Slide set
pptx | 1MB | 24.09.21

Other resources

NHS England - Estimate Hearing Loss Tool
NHS England - Newborn infant screening programme
Oxford Brookes University - Projecting Adult Needs and Service Information (PANSI)
Oxford Brookes University - Projecting Older People Population Information (POPPI)
Royal Pharmaceutical Society - Learning disabilities; Medicines Optimisation
NHS Digital - Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey
NHS England - Care and Health Information Exchange

Last updated: 24 February 2022