Prevalence of disabilities in different age groups revealed

An elderly person on a wheelchair at the Pearl's Hill Care Home located on Pearl's Hill Road.
An elderly person on a wheelchair at the Pearl's Hill Care Home located on Pearl's Hill Road. PHOTO: ST FILE

For the first time, there is a clear indication of how many people with disabilities there are in different age groups.

The prevalence in the student population (aged seven to 18) is 2.1 per cent, and that in people aged 18 to 49 is 3.4 per cent.

The figure rises to 13.3 per cent for people aged 50 and above.

These were in the foreword of the report for the latest Enabling Masterplan, a national blueprint for disability services, for next year to 2021.

National Council of Social Service (NCSS) vice-president Anita Fam, who chaired the panel behind the blueprint, wrote in the foreword: "The steering committee was of the view that a detailed profiling of persons with disabilities in the country... was necessary for the effective planning and delivery of needed services in the disability sector today and in the future."

  • 2.1%

    Prevalence of disabilities in the student population (aged seven to 18).

    3.4%

    Prevalence of disabilities for people aged 18 to 49.

    13.3%

    Prevalence of disabilities for people aged 50 and above.

The figure for the student po- pulation came from the Ministry of Education.

The others are based on a random sample of 2,000 Singapore residents aged 18 and above surveyed by NCSS last year. They are self-reported prevalence rates, and include people who acquired disabilities due to accidents, illness or old age.

The previous Enabling Masterplan, for 2012 to this year, had the incidence - based on the use of services - for people aged below seven and those aged seven to 18. It also had figures for people aged above 18, but not specifically for the elderly.

There is no official central registry of people with disabilities, and experts in the social service sector usually rely on the Ministry of Social and Family Development's estimate of 3 per cent of the entire resident population having disabilities.

Different places define disability differently, but Singapore's figure is lower than prevalence rates in Hong Kong (9 per cent) and the United States (13 per cent). In all three places, the prevalence is higher in older age groups.

The World Health Organisation estimated in 2011 that 15 per cent of the world's population have disabilities.

Disabled People's Association vice-president Judy Wee did not find it surprising that 13.3 per cent of people aged 50 and above had disabilities, and welcomed the figures being made known.

"I think it shows that there are actually a lot of people who could benefit from efforts to make Singapore a more inclusive society," she said.

Priscilla Goy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2016, with the headline 'Prevalence of disabilities in different age groups revealed'. Print Edition | Subscribe