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Census 2021 data show overall health improves since 2011

The latest findings from Census 2021 show the proportion of people who reported to be in very good health increased over the previous decade.

After adjusting for differences in age profiles of the population between 2011 and 2021, census data on general health show an increase in the proportion of people across England and Wales reporting their health as very good to 47.5% (28.8 million) in 2021, from 45.0% (26.4 million) in 2011.

Today’s releases also show a smaller proportion of people were identified as disabled, while the proportion of unpaid carers aged 5 years and over has also decreased since Census 2011.

“Census 2021 data show we reported our overall health has improved over the decade, coinciding with a decline in the proportion of disabled people,” Census 2021 Director Jon Wroth-Smith said. “The census is a point in time estimate and was taken during a pandemic and a time of lockdown. The unique circumstances of the pandemic may have influenced the results.

“For instance, we are also seeing fewer unpaid carers. Potential explanations for this large change in the provision of unpaid care could be a result of lockdown measures, with people who previously shared caring responsibilities with a sibling, for instance, taking on that role alone due to a reduction in household mixing. This could be why, while the number of unpaid carers has declined, we have seen an increase in the proportion of people providing more hours of care as individuals took on more responsibility.

“However, this is just one possible explanation. Another could be the high numbers of deaths due to COVID-19 in 2020 and early 2021. Sadly, this could have led to a reduction in the need for unpaid care, while changes in the question wording between 2011 and 2021, for both the unpaid care and disability questions, may have had an impact on results too.

“There will be further insights from the census to follow as we look at health, disability and unpaid care by topics such as deprivation and other protected characteristics, which will give us an even clearer picture across England and Wales.”

General health – main findings

  • In England, the age-standardised proportion of people reporting very good health increased (from 45.0% in 2011, to 47.5% in 2021), whereas there were decreases in the proportion of people reporting good health (from 34.8% in 2011, to 34.2% in 2021), bad health (from 4.6% in 2011, to 4.1% in 2021) and very bad health (from 1.4% in 2011, to 1.2% in 2021).
  • The North East was the region in England with the highest proportion of people reporting very bad health, at 1.6% of the population.
  • In Wales, there were increases in the proportion of people who reported very good health (from 45.7% in 2011, to 46.6% in 2021) and good health (from 31.4% in 2011, to 32.5% in 2021), and decreases in the proportion of people who reported bad health (from 6.0% in 2011, to 5.1% in 2021) and very bad health (from 1.9% in 2011, to 1.6% in 2021).
  • In England, at the local authority level, the proportion of people reporting very good health ranged from 40.2% in Stoke on Trent to 58.0% in Kensington and Chelsea; Tower Hamlets had the highest proportion of people reporting both bad (7.0%) or very bad health (2.5%).
  • In Wales, the proportion of people reporting very good health ranged from 41.5% in Blaenau Gwent to 51.5% in Gwynedd; Merthyr Tydfil (2.4%) had the highest proportion of people describing their health as very bad, out of all local authorities in Wales, however, Merthyr Tydfil also had the largest decrease of people reporting very bad health (0.7 percentage point decrease, from 3.1% in 2011) of all local authorities in Wales.

Disability – main findings

To identify disability in England and Wales, we asked people “Do you have any physical or mental health conditions or illnesses lasting or expected to last 12 months or more?”. If they answered yes, a further question “Do any of your conditions or illnesses reduce your ability to carry out day-to-day activities?” was presented.

  • In England, in 2021, a smaller age-standardised proportion but larger number of people were disabled (17.7%, 9.8 million), compared with 2011 (19.3%, 9.4 million).
  • In Wales, in 2021, a smaller proportion and a smaller number of people were disabled (21.1%, 670,000), compared with 2011 (23.4%, 696,000).
  • The English region with the highest proportion of disabled people was the North East (21.2%, 567,000).
  • Out of all local authorities across England and Wales, Blackpool (24.7%), Blaenau Gwent (24.6%) and Neath Port Talbot (24.6%) had the highest proportions of disabled people.

Unpaid care – main findings

  • In England and Wales, an estimated 5.0 million usual residents aged 5 years and over provided unpaid care in 2021; this is an age-standardised proportion of 9.0%, a decrease from 11.4% in 2011 (5.8 million).
  • The proportion of people providing 19 or less hours of unpaid care a week decreased from 7.2% (3.7 million) in 2011 to 4.4% (2.4 million) in 2021.
  • The proportion of people who provided 20 to 49 hours of unpaid care a week increased from 1.5% (775,000) in 2011 to 1.9% (1.0 million) in 2021.
  • The proportion of people who provided 50 or more hours of unpaid care a week increased slightly from 2.7% (1.4 million) in 2011 to 2.8% (1.5 million) in 2021.
  • A larger proportion of people provided any unpaid care in Wales (10.5%) than in England (8.9%) in 2021; in Wales, a larger proportion of people provided 50 or more hours of unpaid care a week (3.6%, compared with 2.7% in England).
  • In all English regions, there was a smaller proportion of unpaid carers in 2021 compared with 2011; the North East was the region with the largest proportion of people who provided any amount of unpaid care in 2021 (10.1%, compared with 11.8% in 2011), it was also the region with the largest proportion of people providing 50 or more hours of unpaid care a week (3.4%, compared with 3.3% in 2011).
  • By comparison, the region with the smallest proportion of people who provided any amount of unpaid care in 2021 was London (7.8%, a decrease from 10.3% in 2011).
  • In England, the five local authorities with the largest proportions of usual residents aged 5 years and over who provided any amount of unpaid care were St. Helens (11.7%), Ashfield (11.6%), Mansfield (11.5%), Knowsley (11.5%) and Halton (11.3%).
  • In Wales, the five local authorities with the largest proportions of usual residents aged 5 years and over who provided any amount of unpaid care were Neath Port Talbot (12.3%), Caerphilly (11.4%), Torfaen (11.4%), Blaenau Gwent (11.3%) and Merthyr Tydfil (11.3%).

Note for editors

  • Today we have also published a blog, explaining why we have age-standardised our data and what this means.
  • We have also updated our census maps and our digital content piece looking at how local areas have changed since 2011 with the latest data.
Channel website: https://www.ons.gov.uk/

Original article link: https://www.ons.gov.uk/news/news/census2021datashowoverallhealthimprovessince2011

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