The current health of the signing Deaf community in the UK compared with the general population: a cross-sectional study

BMJ Open. 2015 Jan 25;5(1):e006668. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006668.


Objectives: To assess the current health of the Deaf community in the UK and compare with the general population.

Design: A quota sample of adult Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users underwent a health assessment and interview in 2012-2013. Comparative data were obtained from the Health Survey for England (HSE) 2011 and the Quality Outcomes Framework (QOF) 2012.

Setting: Participants completed a structured interview and health assessment at seven Bupa centres across the UK, supported in BSL by Deaf advisers and interpreters.

Participants: 298 Deaf people, 20-82 years old, 47% male, with 12% from ethnic minorities.

Main outcome measures: Self-reported health conditions, medication usage, tobacco and alcohol consumption; measured blood pressure (BP), body mass index, fasting blood sugar and lipid profile.

Results: Rates of obesity in the Deaf sample were high, especially in those over 65 years, and 48% were in a high risk group for serious illness. High BP readings were obtained in 37% of Deaf people (21% in HSE): 29% were unaware of this (6% in HSE). Only 42% of Deaf people being treated for hypertension had adequate control, compared with 62% of the general population. Deaf people with self-reported cardiovascular disease (CVD) were significantly less than the general population. One-third of Deaf participants had total cholesterol >5 mmol/L but although control rates were high compared with HSE, treatment rates for self-reported CVD were half the general population rate. Eleven per cent of Deaf participants had blood sugar at prediabetic or diabetic levels, and 77% of those at prediabetic levels were unaware of it. Deaf respondents self-reported more depression (31% of women, 14% of men), but less smoking (8%) and alcohol intake (2-8 units/week).

Conclusions: Deaf people's health is poorer than that of the general population, with probable underdiagnosis and undertreatment of chronic conditions putting them at risk of preventable ill health.

Keywords: Deaf; MENTAL HEALTH.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Persons With Hearing Impairments*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholesterol