Disability and Depression Statistics – Update 2024

Depression is a common mental disorder affecting 5% of adults worldwide; around 350 million people suffer from it and it is the world’s leading cause of disability.

It is also the second cause of death in the young adult population. However, one group of people is particularly affected by this disorder: disabled people. Unfortunately, the knowledge of the problem in this specific group is not widespread.

The number of people with disabilities is very high and constantly increasing. Currently, more than one billion people (approximately 15% of the world’s population) have some form of disability and it is estimated that almost everyone is likely to experience some form of disability – temporary or permanent – at some point in life and are at greater risk of experiencing symptoms of depression or major depressive disorder than people without disabilities.

Sources: WHO, The National Center for Biotechnology Information, The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

In this statistic roundup, you’ll learn:

Statistics on depression and disability (editors picks)

Depression by type of disability

Gender differences in depression and disability

Effect of depression and disability in different ethnicities

Depression in people with disabilities by age

Final thoughts

Is your company offering jobs for people with disabilities? As an employer, you can publish your job offers on MyDisabilityJobs and reach thousands of qualified candidates.

Statistics on Depression and Disability (Editors Picks)

Diverse studies have found that people living with physical disabilities are at least three times more likely to suffer from depression compared to the general population. Although it is not yet clear why people with disabilities have higher levels of depression than healthy people, data has shown the most common risk factors in this population that affect the likelihood of developing depression are:

  • Stereotypical social and personal attitudes: related to acquired behaviors about how a person with a disability is expected to be and act. A survey showed that just 27% of disabled people agree that they are able to live full, independent lives.
  • Abuse: children with disabilities are three times more likely to face violence than non-disabled
  • Experiencing violence: there is an approximate 50% increased risk of experiencing violence for adults with mental health conditions.
  • Role loss: the onset of a disability at an advanced age impacts the individual roles, either personal, social or professional.
  • Poverty-related stress factors: disabilities lead to unemployment due to the lack of adjustment to perform labor activities. Therefore, stress due to poverty is huge and constant. Only 5% of disabled people agree that disabled people are given the employment opportunities they need to thrive in society.
  • Environmental barriers: this refers to any type of environmental circumstances, from social, to physical environment which makes it difficult for disabled people to pursue their goals. For instance, around 31% of disabled people had difficulty using public spaces.
  • Lack of accessibility: 28% of people with disability have difficulty accessing public buildings. The buildings respondents had most frequently been unable to access or had extreme difficulty accessing were shops and shopping centers (78%), and pubs, bars, restaurants, and cafes (66%). 46% were unable to access or had extreme difficulty accessing medical facilities.
  • Lack of access to adequate health care: disabled people struggle to find adequate health care for their conditions because of poor healthcare systems, and economical burdens. A survey found that most disabled people reported that appointments and medical treatments had been delayed or canceled, especially after pandemic. In some cases, disabled people had already been waiting for long periods of time for medical treatment.
  • Isolation and loneliness: certain types of disabilities isolate individuals from their support networks, such as blindness, or deaf. Making it hard to communicate their needs and develop a sense of belonging. Also, in a survey, 43% of disabled people report feeling lonely and 55% report feeling isolated from others ‘always’ or ‘often’.

Also, the level of functional impairment has been a definite risk factor for the onset of depression in all studies.

Sources: The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Health Education Research Journal, American Psychological Association, Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Depression by type of disability

A 2016 study analyzed which disability types have a higher risk of developing depression in patients and it was found that psychological disabilities had the higher risk of onset depression, followed by hearing disabilities, then physical, intellectual, and visual.

Disability typeDepression prevalence %
Depression by type of disability
  • Blindness: a 2019 study focused on blind patients found that 68% of the sample experienced severe depression because of their condition.
  • Deaf: a study assessing depressive symptoms in deaf people found that they are 5 times more likely to suffer from depressive symptoms than those who are not deaf.

Sources: National University Of Loja Human Health Area, Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling.

Gender Differences in Depression and Disability

Several studies have assessed the role of gender in relation to the development of depression in people with disabilities and all agree that women, in general, are approximately twice as likely as men to experience depression when having a disability.

This is what the data shows:

  • The estimates of the depression onset in women with disabilities range from 30% to 59%.
  • The more functional limitations a woman has, the more likely she is to be frequently depressed or anxious, and the more likely she is to have experienced major depression.
  • Women with more than 3 disabilities may be 8 to 15 times more likely to report mental health problems than women without disabilities.

Sources: The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Women’s Health Issues Journal.

Effect of Depression and Disability in Different Ethnicities

As presented above, data shows a strong relationship between physical disability and risk of psychiatric disorders, however, elevations in risk are greater for persons of Hispanic heritage compared with African Americans and non-Hispanic Whites.

Hispanics had reported higher levels of depressive symptoms compared to other ethnicities with disabilities.

Sources: American Psychological Association, Journal of Aging and Health

Depression in People with Disabilities by Age

Various studies have focused on the correlation between age and depression in people with disabilities. Results have shown a significant difference in older adults’ depression prevalence in relation to the rest of the age groups. Older adults have less prevalence of depression while the young adults were the most affected.

Age groupDepression prevalence %
Young Adults95.98
Middle Adults77.22
Older Adults42.86
Depression in People with Disabilities by Age

Sources: National University Of Loja Human Health Area

Is your company offering jobs for people with disabilities? As an employer, you can publish your job offers on MyDisabilityJobs and reach thousands of qualified candidates.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

According to the WHO, people with disabilities have less access to health care services, so their care needs are often neglected, and they face greater factors of unemployment, isolation, and hardship than those without disabilities, creating a perfect situation for depression to develop.

There is a need for more general studies on the disabled population as most data focus on small samples and groups, and there is a lack of extensive data addressing larger populations.

Furthermore, given the data we have just seen, the need to generate policies or spaces for inclusion in order to integrate disabled people becomes evident, as does the need to raise awareness of the need for education on disability issues in order to understand their types and needs.

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