Youngsters with learning disabilities at least 12 times more likely than others to die in childhood

People with learning disabilities in Scotland are at significantly increased risk of premature death, according to a new study.

Research by the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory (SLDO) has found youngsters with learning disabilities are at least 12 times more likely than others to die in childhood.

Adults with learning disabilities are twice as likely to die from preventable illnesses, it also found.

SLDO director Professor Craig Melville (pictured) said: “These findings demonstrate that steps must be taken immediately to prevent unnecessary deaths of children and adults with learning disabilities.

“It is particularly shocking to find that people with learning disabilities are dying from causes that could be prevented or treated through targeted training and guidance for carers and clinical staff and access to good quality health and care services.

“We are working with the Scottish Government, third sector agencies and health professionals to develop a multi-agency response to these findings to tackle this inequality.”

Many of the deaths were from illnesses that could be treated and the researchers said this highlights an “urgent need” for action to reduce unnecessary deaths.

The study also found the most common causes of death among children with learning disabilities were different to those of other youngsters, showing they are at greater risk of dying from treatable conditions.

SLDO’s study of 961 adults in Scotland linked clinical data to death registrations and found preventable deaths were twice as high for adults with learning disabilities.

The study, which looked at mortality rates and causes in adults with learning disabilities in community settings, found complications related to respiratory illness were the most common underlying cause of mortality.

The SLDO, based in the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, is funded by the Scottish Government.

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