Archive:Disability statistics - barriers to social integration

This article has been archived. For information on disability statistics please see Disability statistics.

Data extracted in November 2015. Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Next update of this article: March 2019


This article provides an overview of the aspects of life where people with disabilities in the European Union (EU) face barriers to participation. It is one of a set of statistical articles concerning disability statistics in the EU and accompanies a number of methodological articles which make up an online publication on disability statistics.

Table 1: Share of disabled persons aged 15 and over reporting a disability in the specified life areas, 2012
(as a % of persons reporting a disability in at least one area)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dsi090)
Figure 1: Share of disabled persons aged 15 and over reporting a disability in the specified life areas, by sex, EU-27, 2012 (1)
(as a % of persons reporting a disability in at least one area)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dsi090)
Figure 2: Share of disabled persons aged 15 and over reporting a disability in the specified life areas, by age, EU-27, 2012 (1)
(as a % of persons reporting a disability in at least one area)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dsi090)
Figure 3: Share of disabled persons aged 15 and over reporting a disability in the specified life areas, by educational attainment, EU-27, 2012 (1)
(as a % of persons reporting a disability in at least one area)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dsi100)
Figure 4: Share of disabled persons aged 15 and over reporting a disability in the specified life areas, by labour status, EU-27, 2012 (1)
(as a % of persons reporting a disability in at least one area)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dsi090)
Figure 5: Distribution by number of life areas reported by disabled persons aged 15 and over, 2012
(as a % of persons reporting a disability in at least one area)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dsi010)
Figure 6: Distribution by number of life areas reported by disabled persons aged 15 and over, by age and sex, EU-27, 2012 (1)
(as a % of persons reporting a disability in at least one area)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dsi010)
Table 2: Number of disabled persons aged 15 and over and distribution by number of life areas reported, by sex, 2012
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dsi010)
Table 3: Number of disabled persons aged 15 and over and distribution by number of life areas reported, by age, 2012
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dsi010)
Figure 7: Distribution by number of life areas reported by disabled persons aged 15 and over, by educational attainment and labour status, EU-27, 2012 (1)
(as a % of persons reporting a disability in at least one area)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dsi015) and (hlth_dsi020)
Table 4: Number of disabled persons aged 15 and over and distribution by number of life areas reported, for disabled persons with or without long-standing health problems, 2012
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dsi050)
Figure 8: Distribution by number of life areas reported by disabled persons aged 15 and over with or without long-standing health problems, by sex, EU-27, 2012 (1)
(as a % of persons reporting a disability in at least one area)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dsi050)
Table 5: Share of disabled persons aged 15 and over reporting difficulties with selected activities, by number of life areas reported, 2012
(%)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dsi060), (hlth_dsi070) and (hlth_dsi080)
Figure 9: Distribution by number of life areas reported by disabled persons aged 15 and over, by sex and by type of difficulties, EU-27, 2012 (1)
(as a % of persons reporting a disability in at least one area)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_dsi060), (hlth_dsi070) and (hlth_dsi080)

Main statistical findings

According to the European health and social integration survey (EHSIS), in 2012 there were 70.0 million people with disabilities aged 15 and over in the EU-27 [1], equivalent to 17.6 % of the population aged 15 and over.

Before looking at the barriers to participation that people with disabilities face, it may be useful to recap some of the socio-demographic categories where there is a higher or lower prevalence of disability. The prevalence of disability was: higher for women (19.9 %) than for men (15.1 %); higher for people aged 65 and over (35.6 %) than for those aged 45–54 (18.8 %) or aged 15–44 (8.5 %); higher for people having completed at most lower secondary education (25.0 %) than for those having completed at most an upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education (15.4 %) or tertiary education (11.0 %); higher for retired persons (34.3 %), than for unemployed people (20.5 %), other economically inactive people (20.2 %) or employed persons (8.0 %).

Life areas where people are disabled

Based on data from the EHSIS, a person is considered to be disabled if their participation in any of 10 specific life areas is restricted due to a basic activity difficulty or a long-standing health problem: these 10 life areas are presented in Table 1.

Leisure pursuits and mobility are the two life areas where the largest proportion of people with disabilities reported barriers to participation

There are two life areas where more than half of all people with disabilities in the EU-27 reported that their disability restricted their participation in 2012: leisure pursuits (in other words, hobbies or interests that involve spending time with other people); and mobility (defined here as the ability to leave one’s own home).

Around three in five (60.9 %) people with disabilities in the EU-27 said that their disability restricted their participation in leisure pursuits, with this share reaching just above one in two (52.9 %) for mobility. The share of people with disabilities reporting a disability for three other life areas was nearer to one in three: employment (38.6 %), accessing buildings (37.0 %) and transport (31.7 %). Approximately one in four people with disabilities reported that they had a disability with respect to education and training (25.6 %) and paying for the essential things in life (22.7 %), while one in five people with disabilities felt unfairly treated because of their basic activity difficulty and/or long-standing health problem. The two life areas least commonly reported by people with disabilities were the use of the internet and social contact, reported by 4.6 % and 2.0 % respectively of people with disabilities as areas where they faced barriers.

In 16 of the EU Member States, leisure pursuits was the life area in which people with disabilities were most likely to have reported that they faced a disability in 2012, while in eight more mobility was the most common life area. The two exceptions were Latvia and Bulgaria, where paying for the essential things in life was the most common life area for a disability.

For several of the life areas there were one or two EU Member States where the share of people with disabilities reporting a disability in that area was particularly high or low, including: for transport a high value for Italy and low values for Finland and Luxembourg; for education and training low values for Greece, Bulgaria and Italy; for employment, low values for Malta and Greece; for social contact high values for the United Kingdom, Latvia, Romania and Slovenia; for perceived discrimination (unfair treatment because of a disability) a high value in the United Kingdom. For two other life areas — using the internet and paying for the essential things in life — the share of people with disabilities reporting a disability in that area was relatively diverse between the Member States. For using the internet, the shares ranged from 1.6 % in Romania to more than 9.0 % in Spain and the United Kingdom. For paying for the essential things in life the shares ranged from less than 10.0 % in Sweden and Spain to more than 50.0 % in Latvia, Greece and Hungary, to 65.0 % in Romania and 76.4 % in Bulgaria.

Disabled women were more likely than disabled men to report barriers to mobility, transport and the accessibility of buildings

A slightly greater proportion of disabled men (40.0 %) than women (37.5 %) in the EU-27 reported a disability concerning employment in 2012, as was also the case for leisure pursuits, perceived discrimination and using the internet. For each of the other six life areas shown in Figure 1 the proportion of disabled women who reported a disability in those areas was higher than the proportion of disabled men. This gender gap was most noticeable, in percentage point terms, for mobility, transport and accessing buildings.

Apart from employment, education and training, and using the internet, older people with disabilities were more likely to report a disability in most life areas …

A similar analysis by age group is shown in Figure 2. Unsurprisingly, given that most people aged 65 and over have retired, a relatively small proportion of people aged 65 and over in the EU-27 reported that their disability was a barrier to education and training or to employment; this age group was also least likely to report disability barriers to using the internet which again may reflect a larger share of older people simply not wanting to use the internet, leaving a smaller share of the population that might face a disability in this area. For all three of these life areas the generation aged 45–64 was more likely to report a disability than the youngest generation (aged 15–44).

… although younger people with disabilities were most likely to report a disability with respect to social contact and unfair treatment because of their disability

Across the EU-27, for most other life areas, the older generation were more likely to report a disability than either of the two younger generations, with two exceptions. The first was social contact, where the youngest generation (aged 15–44) were most likely to report a disability barrier, followed by the oldest generation, with the generation aged 45–64 least likely to report a disability in this area. The second life area that was an exception was perceived discrimination, which was inversely related to age, with the older generation least likely to report unfair treatment because of their disability and the younger generation most likely to do so.

Among the 10 life areas there were six where the proportion of people with disabilities reporting a disability in that life area appeared to be either directly or indirectly related to educational attainment. In 2012, people with disabilities in the EU-27 having completed a tertiary education were least likely to report a disability for mobility, accessing buildings, transport and paying for the essential things in life, while people with disabilities having completed at most lower secondary education were most likely to report a disability in these areas. The reverse situation was observed for perceived discrimination and using the internet, as people with disabilities having completed tertiary education were most likely to report a disability in these areas and people with disabilities having completed at most lower secondary education were least likely to report such a disability.

For the four remaining life areas there was no clear connection between educational attainment and disability. People with disabilities having completed upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education — in other words the intermediate level of the three education levels shown in Figure 3 — were most likely to report a disability for employment and for education and training, while they were least likely to report a disability for social contacts or leisure pursuits.

Level of educational attainment most influenced whether people with disabilities reported a disability in the life area concerning paying for essential things in life

In terms of educational attainment, the greatest diversity in the proportion of people with disabilities in the EU-27 reporting a disability in a particular life area was observed for paying for essential things in life: among people with disabilities having completed a tertiary education the proportion with a disability in this area was 11.2 % in 2012, whereas for people with disabilities having completed at most a lower secondary education the proportion was as high as 26.9 %. In contrast, the least diversity was observed for leisure pursuits.

The analysis presented in Figure 4 is influenced to some extent by age, as the part of the population aged 65 and over is likely to be very similar to the part of the population that is retired. As such, the shares shown in Figure 4 for retired people are quite similar to those shown in Figure 2 for people aged 65 and over. The largest difference in percentage point terms between these values can be observed for employment, where 25.2 % of disabled retired people reported a disability in the employment life area compared with 21.2 % for people with disabilities aged 65 and over, suggesting that: either people with disabilities under the age of 65 who are retired were relatively likely to report a disability in the employment life area; or people with disabilities aged 65 and over who are not retired were relatively unlikely to report a disability in the employment life area.

Labour status most influenced whether people with disabilities reported a disability in the life areas concerning transport and using the internet

Moving on from the category of retired people, the most common pattern observed in the EU-27 was that, in 2012, people with disabilities who were employed were least likely to report a disability in each of the 10 life areas, while people with disabilities who were economically inactive (other than retired) were most likely to report a disability, the only exception being for the life area of perceived discrimination where disabled unemployed people were more likely to report a disability than those who were economically inactive (other than retired). Still focusing on people other than those retired, the life areas where labour status most influenced whether people with disabilities reported a disability were transport and using the internet: the proportion of people with disabilities who were economically inactive (other than retired) reporting a disability in the transport life area was 2.8 times as high as the proportion among disabled employed people, while the ratio for using the internet was 2.7.

Severity of disabilities

The second part of the analysis presented in this article looks at the severity of disability, not in terms of how severely restricted a disabled person is in any particular life area, but by looking at the number of life areas in which an individual is restricted. Three levels of severity have been compiled, for people with disabilities facing:

  • a disability in just one life area (also referred to hereafter as low severity);
  • disabilities in two or three life areas (also referred to hereafter as medium severity);
  • disabilities in four or more life areas (also referred to hereafter as high severity).

The share of all people with disabilities in each of these three categories is shown in Figure 5. In the EU-27 as a whole, the division was fairly equal in 2012, with 35.7 % of people with disabilities reporting a high severity, practically the same share (35.5 %) reporting a low severity, and a somewhat smaller share (28.8 %) reporting medium severity. The EU Member States where a particularly high proportion of people with disabilities reported low severity included Malta, Sweden and Austria, the latter being the only Member State where more than half of all people with disabilities reported a disability in only one life area; Iceland also reported a high share of people with disabilities with a disability in only one life area. Member States where a relatively large proportion of people with disabilities reported a high severity (disabilities in at least four life areas) included the Czech Republic, Hungary, the United Kingdom and Romania.

In the EU-27 and in most of the EU Member States, disabled men were more likely to report a low severity of disability than were disabled women

Figure 6 shows a similar distribution for the EU-27, but with analyses by age and sex. For all age groups, the proportion of disabled men reporting a disability in just one life area was higher than the equivalent proportion for disabled women. Equally, the proportion of disabled women reporting a high severity was higher than the equivalent proportion for men, again in all age groups.

A greater proportion of disabled men than disabled women reported a high severity of disability in the United Kingdom

The vast majority of EU Member States displayed the same pattern by sex as observed for the EU-27 as a whole, namely that the proportion of disabled men reporting a disability in just one life area was higher than the equivalent proportion for disabled women, while the proportion of disabled women reporting a high severity was higher than the equivalent proportion for men (see Table 2).

There were however a small number of exceptions: Latvia, Poland, Cyprus and Slovakia, where a greater proportion of disabled women than disabled men reported a low severity; and the United Kingdom, where a greater proportion of disabled men than disabled women reported a high severity.

The proportion of people with disabilities reporting a disability in just one life area was highest in the EU-27 for people aged 15–44 and lowest for people aged 65 and over: in 2012, this pattern was observed for the population as a whole and separately for men and for women (see Figure 6). The reverse situation was also observed for the whole population, namely a high proportion of older people with disabilities reporting a high severity with a lower proportion of younger people reporting a high severity; again this pattern was also observed for women, but it was not the case for men, as a slightly higher share of disabled men aged 45–64 reported a high severity than did disabled men aged 65 and over.

Again the age pattern observed for the EU-27 in 2012 was repeated in the majority of EU Member States, although with more exceptions than for the analysis by sex (see Table 3). In Malta, Finland and the Netherlands, the youngest age group (15–44) did not report the highest proportion of people with disabilities with a disability in just one life area. Equally, in France, Slovakia, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden, the oldest age group (65 and over) did not report the highest proportion of people with disabilities with a high severity of disability.

From Figure 7 it can be seen that people with disabilities in the EU-27 having completed a tertiary education were less likely to have a high severity of disability and most likely to have a disability in just one life area, while the reverse was true for people with disabilities having completed at most a lower secondary education.

More than half of the people with disabilities who were employed had a disability in just one life area

More than half of all people with disabilities who were employed had a disability in just one life area, a higher proportion than for disabled persons with any other labour status. Unsurprisingly, disabled persons who were employed were least likely to have a high severity of disability. In contrast, nearly half of the people with disabilities who were economically inactive had a high severity of disability, while only one quarter had a disability in just one life area. The distribution by severity of people with disabilities who were unemployed lay between these two positions, with nearly two fifths reporting a high severity of disability and one third a low severity.

People with disabilities with or without long-standing health problems

One of the two reasons for people with disabilities having barriers to participation is the existence of a long-standing health problem, in other words, a health problem that has lasted or is expected to last for at least six months. Table 4 and Figure 8 present data for people with disabilities distinguishing between those that have long-standing health problems and those that do not. By definition, while those with a long-standing health problem might or might not also have a basic activity difficulty (the second of the two reasons for people with disabilities to have barriers to participation), people with disabilities without a long-standing health problem must have a basic activity difficulty (leading to a barrier to participation in at least one life area), otherwise they would not be considered as disabled.

Among the 73.0 million people with disabilities in the EU-27 in 2012, 70.3 million (96.2 %) reported that they had a long-standing health problem, while the remaining 2.8 million reported that they did not (and as a consequence they only had a basic activity difficulty).

As the number of people with disabilities with a long-standing health problem in the EU-27 was almost the same as the total number of people with disabilities in the EU-27, the analysis by severity for people with disabilities with a long-standing health problem is very similar to that seen in Table 2 for all people with disabilities. In 2012, a somewhat smaller share of people with disabilities with a long-standing health problem reported a disability in only one life area, 33.8 % compared with 35.5 % for all people with disabilities, while slightly higher shares were reported for medium severity (29.3 % compared with 28.8 %) and high severity (36.9 % compared with 35.7 %). This basic pattern was observed in nearly all EU Member States, Iceland and Norway, as there were only three exceptions: in Spain and Luxembourg, the share of people with disabilities with a long-standing health problem reporting medium severity was slightly lower than the equivalent share for all people with disabilities; in Malta, the share of people with disabilities with a long-standing health problem reporting high severity was slightly lower than the equivalent share for all people with disabilities.

Four out of every five people with disabilities without a long-standing health problem had a disability in just one life area, while only 1 in 20 reported a high severity

The distribution of people with disabilities in the EU-27 without a long-standing health problem was very different in 2012 to that observed for all people with disabilities. Nearly four in five (79.5 %) people with disabilities without a long-standing health problem reported a disability in just one life area, more than double the share for all people with disabilities. Consequently, the shares of people with disabilities without a long-standing health problem reporting medium or high severity were much lower than for all people with disabilities, particularly for high severity which was reported by just 1 in 20 (4.9 %) people with disabilities without a long-standing health problem compared with more than one in three for all people with disabilities.

Due to the relatively small number of people with a disability without a long-standing health problem, data availability for all Member States is somewhat limited due to the reliability of the data resulting from the sample size used in the survey. Nevertheless, from the data that are available it is clear that the share of people with disabilities without a long-standing health problem reporting a disability in just one life area was considerably higher than the equivalent share for all people with disabilities. The percentage point difference between these shares ranged from 29 percentage points in France and Austria to 58 points in Romania and 59 points in Hungary. The actual share of people with disabilities without a long-standing health problem who reported a disability in just one life area ranged from just under three quarters in Poland and the Netherlands to 92 % in Greece, with France (65 %) below this range and Bulgaria (100 %) above it.

For the EU-27, Figure 8 presents a similar analysis to that shown in Table 4, but with an additional analysis by sex. This illustrates the very different distributions by severity depending whether a long-standing health problem is present or not. It also shows that men were more likely than women to report a disability in just one area, regardless of whether a long-standing health problem was present or not. However, concerning the share of people with disabilities who reported a high severity, the situation does differ, with men more likely than women to report a high severity if there was not a long-standing health problem, whereas women were more likely than men to report a high severity if there was a long-standing health problem.

Difficulties with basic activities and personal and household care activities

The final section of this article looks at people with disabilities who reported specific types of activity limitations, namely difficulties with basic activities which is one of the two reasons for people with disabilities having barriers to participation, or difficulties with personal and household care activities. Basic activities include activities such as seeing, hearing, walking and communicating. Personal care activities (also known as activities of daily living) include for example bathing, dressing and feeding oneself. Household activities (also known as instrumental activities of daily living) include for example preparing meals, using the telephone, going shopping and doing housework.

People with disabilities more likely to have basic activity difficulties than difficulties with household or personal care

Among the 73.0 million people with disabilities in the EU-27 in 2012, four out of five (81.5 %) reported that they had a basic activity difficulty. When focusing on people with disabilities reporting a high severity, in other words with disabilities in at least four life areas, the share reporting difficulties with basic activities reached 19 out of 20 (95.4 %). In contrast, around two thirds (65.5 %) of people with disabilities reporting a disability in just one life area reported difficulties with basic activities. This pattern of a greater likelihood of difficulties with basic activities depending on the severity of disability faced by people with disabilities was observed in all EU Member States.

Just over two fifths (43.0 %) of people with disabilities in the EU-27 reported that they had difficulties with personal care activities in 2012, this share ranging from 19.0 % among people with disabilities with a low severity to 69.1 % among those with a high severity. As such, difficulties with personal care activities were much less common among people with disabilities than were difficulties with basic activities, regardless of the degree of severity of disability, a pattern that was observed in all EU Member States.

More than half (53.1 %) of the people with disabilities in the EU-27 reported that they had difficulties with household care activities in 2012. As for basic and personal care activities, the share of people with disabilities reporting difficulties with household care activities increased with the severity of disability, from 23.3 % for people with disabilities with low severity to 83.5 % for people with disabilities with high severity. Once more, difficulties with household care activities were less common among people with disabilities than were difficulties with basic activities, regardless of the degree of severity of disability, a pattern that was again observed in all EU Member States. Generally, a greater proportion of people with disabilities reported difficulties with household care activities than with personal care activities, although there were a few exceptions: in Luxembourg, more people with disabilities with a medium severity of disability reported difficulties with personal care activities than with household care activities, while the same was true in the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, Austria and Poland among people with a low severity of disability.

For the EU-27, Figure 9 presents a different analysis to that shown in Table 5, as it does not look at the share of people with disabilities facing particular difficulties, but at the distribution according to the severity of disability of people with disabilities facing the specified difficulties. Among people with disabilities with difficulties in basic activities, men were more likely than women to report a low severity of disability and women a medium or high severity. Concerning people with disabilities with difficulties in personal care activities, there was very little difference between the sexes, with men somewhat more likely to report a low severity of disability and women more likely to report a medium severity. For the final category, people with disabilities with difficulties in household care activities, women were more likely to report a low or medium severity of disability and men more likely to report a high severity.

Data sources and availability

The data presented in this article come from the one-off 2012 European health and social integration survey (EHSIS). The survey covered persons aged 15 and over living in private households. As such, the survey did not cover people living in collective households or in institutions, an important point given that the prevalence of disabilities might be different in such accommodation.

Disability is a complex, evolving and multi-dimensional concept and population surveys may use various definitions, interpretations and approaches to try to measure it: various models of disabilities and some of the challenges facing data collection are presented in an introductory article on disability statistics. Data on disability derived from the EHSIS are based on the following definition: people facing barriers to participation in any of 10 life areas, owing to a long-standing health problem and/or a basic activity difficulty; in this article simply referred to as a disability. As such, the existence of a long-standing health problem of a basic activity difficulty is not sufficient for someone to be considered disabled, as the definition is dependent on such a condition and/or difficulty actually being a barrier to participation in some aspect of life.

More detailed information about the EHSIS is given in a background article.

Context

The two main frameworks governing the EU’s current policy strategy for disability are the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the European disability strategy 2010–20. These require regular collection of disability-related statistics to allow policies to be drawn up to monitor how these are implemented and to identify and address barriers faced by people with disabilities in exercising their rights. More information about the Convention and the strategy are available in an introductory article on disability statistics.

See also

Online publications

Articles related to disability statistics using EHSIS data

Background methodological articles

Further Eurostat information

Database

Barriers to social integration of disabled people (source EHSIS) (hlth_dsb_soci)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links

Notes

  1. The EHSIS data for the EU-27 presented in this article exclude not only Croatia (which was the 28th Member State of the EU) but also Ireland. For this reason the EU-27 data are considered as estimates.