Purpose: Few research studies have sought to examine the health promotion needs of young people with disabilities. This paper reports the association between self-reported disability and various health behaviours (tobacco and alcohol use, physical activity, sedentary activities) psycho-social outcomes and school satisfaction.
Method: Cluster stratified random sampling was combined with a cross-sectional descriptive design to obtain 3918 school students attending year 6 (primary school), year 8 and year 10 (high school) throughout New South Wales (Australia), to complete a self-administered questionnaire.
Results: The prevalence of self-reported disability among this student sample was 5.8%. The most frequently reported disabilities were physical, sensory and learning disabilities. Students with disabilities reported similar health and educational outcomes as their able-bodied peers. However, they also reported lower levels of school satisfaction, greater voluntary absenteeism and were more likely to get drunk or smoke cigarettes. Students with disabilities reported higher levels of psycho-social distress. They were also as physically active as other students, but also spent more time engaged in sedentary activities.
Conclusion: Students with self-reported disabilities exhibit attitudes and behaviours that are consistent with studies of students who are alienated from their school communities. Community-based health promotion interventions are required to address these issues in order to prevent the onset of secondary disease processes or additional disability.