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The current health of the signing Deaf community in the UK compared with the general population: a cross-sectional study
  1. Alan Emond1,
  2. Matthew Ridd1,
  3. Hilary Sutherland2,
  4. Lorna Allsop2,
  5. Andrew Alexander3,
  6. Jim Kyle4
  1. 1School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  2. 2Deaf Studies Trust, The Vassall Centre, Bristol, UK
  3. 3SignHealth, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, UK
  4. 4Deaf Studies, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Alan Emond, alan.emond{at}


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.

  • Deaf

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