Perceptions of neighbourhood quality, social and civic participation and the self rated health of British adults with intellectual disability: cross sectional study

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

BMC Public Health


Eric Emerson, Chris Hatton, Janet Robertson and Susannah Baines

Publication date


Background: There is extensive evidence from research undertaken on general population samples that people who have more extensive and closer social networks and people who report feeling connected to their local community tend to have better health. However, relatively few studies have examined the relationship between the social connectedness of people with intellectual disabilities and their health. Methods: Secondary analysis of data from Understanding Society, a new longitudinal study focusing on the life experiences of UK citizens. We identified 279 participants aged 16–49 (1.1% of the unweighted age-restricted sample) as having intellectual disability, and 22,927 as not having intellectual disability. Multivariate logistic regression was used to investigate between group differences adjusting for potential confounding personal characteristics (e.g., gender). Results: British adults with intellectual disability had less favorable perceptions of important neighborhood characteristics and lower levels of social and civic participation than their non-disabled peers. Favorable perceptions of important neighborhood characteristics and higher levels of social and civic participation were associated with more positive self-rated health for adults with and without intellectual disability. For adults with intellectual disability this was particularly the case with regard to employment, feeling safe outside in the dark and being able to access services when needed. The between-group differences in perceptions of important neighbourhood characteristics and levels of social and civic participation accounted for a significant proportion of the elevated risk for poorer self-rated health observed among adults with intellectual disability.Conclusions: This study provides evidence to suggest that the health inequalities experienced by people with intellectual disabilities may be partially attributable to their less favorable perceptions of important neighborhood characteristics and lower levels of social and civic participation.

Volume and page numbers

14, 1252





Disability, Social Exclusion, Social Capital and Health


Open Access article; © 2014 Emerson et al.; licensee BioMed Central.; This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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