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Supporting people with learning disabilities to find work can promote better health

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Nurses who support people with learning disabilities into work is a legitimate health promotion intervention, study indicates

Researchers have interrogated data from the 1970 British Cohort Study to understand the relationship between economic inactivity, unemployment and learning disabilities, or borderline intellectual functioning.

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The British Cohort Study has used a series of periodic data collections to understand the life experiences, including economic activity and self-reported general health and mental health, of more than 17,000 children born in 1970.

At all points of data collection, people with learning disabilities were more likely to be unemployed, or economically inactive. The paper reports that economic inactivity or part-time employment were associated with poorer self-rated general and mental health for people with and without learning disabilities alike.

Interestingly, the presence of a learning disability appeared to moderate the scale of the association between economic inactivity and poorer health, and mental health.

The authors suggest that poor health status may prove less of a barrier to employment in those sectors most likely to be accessed by people with learning disabilities, or that people with learning disabilities may be more likely to be employed in sectors or forms of employment that confer less health promoting benefits.

For learning disability nurses aiming to reduce health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities, this paper highlights that encouraging and supporting moves to secure forms employment is a legitimate health promoting intervention.

Emerson E, Hatton C, Baines S et al (2018) The association between employment status and health among British adults with and without intellectual impairments: cross-sectional analyses of a cohort study. BMC Public Health. 18, 401


Dave Atkinson is an independent consultant nurse

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