Lifestyle Risk Factors in People With Disability
Published: 16 May 2022
Published: 16 May 2022
People living with disability are 3.6 times more likely to die from a potentially preventable cause than the general population (AIHW 2020a), partially due to a lack of preventative healthcare measures being taken for people with disability (NDIS Commission 2019).
However, in addition to proactively addressing health risks in people with disability, health issues and potential deaths can also be reduced in these populations by modifying lifestyle risk factors (AIHW 2020b).
It’s been found that people living with disability in Australia display higher rates of certain modifiable lifestyle risk factors than the general population (AIHW 2020b).
This is likely because people living with disability may face specific challenges that make it more difficult to modify these risk factors - for example, a person with a physical disability may require extra assistance to maintain regular physical activity (AIHW 2020b).
In 2019, it was recommended that the NDIS Commission increase providers and workers’ awareness and knowledge of how the serious injury and death of people with disability can be prevented (NDIS Commission 2019).
As part of these recommendations, in July 2021, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care and NDIS Commission released a practice alert explaining the importance of addressing lifestyle risk factors in people with disability.
Lifestyle risk factors are modifiable attributes, characteristics or exposures that may increase the risk of developing illnesses and health issues, or exacerbate existing health problems (ACSQHC & NDIS Commission 2021; AIHW 2020b).
Changing or modifying these risk factors can improve the overall health of an individual, as well as reduce the risk of illness or death (ACSQHC & NDIS Commission 2021; AIHW 2020b).
There are two types of lifestyle risk factors:
Examples of lifestyle risk factors include:
(AIHW 2016; ACSQHC & NDIS Commission 2021)
Lifestyle risk factors are associated with a variety of health issues, including:
People with disability are more likely than the general population to experience certain physical and mental health conditions that could be caused or exacerbated by lifestyle risk factors. These include cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes, oral diseases, depression and anxiety (ACSQHC & NDIS Commission 2021).
They are also more likely to have lifestyle risk factors than the general population. For example, in Australia:
Interestingly, people living with disability have lower rates of excessive alcohol consumption than the general population (AIHW 2020b).
There are a variety of reasons why people with disability may find it more difficult than the general population to modify certain behavioural lifestyle risk factors:
|Exercise and physical activity
|Alcohol, smoking and substance abuse
(Gadsby & Jones 2014; AIHW 2020b; ACSQHC & NDIS Commission 2021)
With the above barriers in mind, how can people living with disability be supported to optimise their health and wellbeing and reduce lifestyle risk factors?
(ACSQHC & NDIS Commission 2021)
Question 1 of 3
What type of lifestyle risk factor is easier to modify?