More than 1 billion people worldwide have disabilities

This graphic is the logo for the World Health Organization
World Health Organization

The World Health Organization and the World Bank released June 9 the first-ever World Report on Disability.

The 349-page publication estimates that more than one billion people worldwide contain a disability, while nearly 200 million of those individuals “experience considerable difficulties in functioning.”

“Across the world, people with disabilities have poorer health outcomes, lower education achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities,” according to the report. “This is partly because people with disabilities experience barriers in accessing services that many of us have long taken for granted, including health, education, employment, and transport as well as information. These difficulties are exacerbated in less advantaged communities.”

Worldwide, people with disabilities are three times more likely to be denied health care than people without disabilities, the report estimates. The employment rate for people with disabilities is also barely half of that for people without disabilities.

“Addressing the health, education, employment, and other development needs of people living with disabilities is fundamental to achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” says Robert B. Zoellick, president of the World Bank, in a news release. “We need to help people with disabilities to gain equitable access to opportunities to participate and contribute to their communities. They have much to offer if given a fair chance to do so.”

The report expects the number of people with disabilities to increase due to the aging of various populations and an increase in chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health disorders.

“We have a moral duty to remove the barriers to participation for people with disabilities, and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock their vast potential… It is my hope this century will mark a turning point for inclusion of people with disabilities in the lives of their societies,” said renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking in the release.

The World Health Organization also recently released a report showing that mental illnesses, such depression and symptoms relating to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, account for nearly half of all disabilities for people between ages 10 and 24 worldwide. The findings were published in the British medical journal, The Lancet.