Complex disabilities in the UK research: Demographic breakdown

The demographics of people with complex disabilities

Our research shows that there are approximately 1.6 million people with complex disabilities in the UK. We analysed age, sex and ethnicity to better understand and support the individuals who make up this figure.


Our estimates show that people with complex disabilities in the UK are predominantly adults, aged 18 and over. If we look at the break down by age group, we can see that 42% are between 18-64 (approximately 667,000 people) and 38% are over 65 (approximately 606,000 people). For the younger age group, our analysis indicates that 20% of people are between 0-17 years old (approximately 318,000 people).

Age groupNumber of people
blue dot0-17 years318,339
orange dot18-64 years667,417
purple dotOver 65 years606,155


Of the 1.6 million people in the UK with complex disabilities, just over half are male.

Our analysis suggests that 54% of people with complex disabilities are male (approximately 860,000 people) and 46% are female (approximately 730,000 people).

We have used the two categories ‘male’ and ‘female’ because these were the only options respondents could select in the dataset underlying our findings.

graph showing the number of men (864,352) and women (727,560 with complex disabilities
SexNumber of people


We have been able to estimate how many people with complex disabilities fall into the broad ethnic groups used by the Office for National Statistics.

We estimate that 8% of people with complex disabilities are from an ethnic minority background (approximately 143,784 people). 4% of people with complex disabilities are Asian (approximately 65,000 people), 2% are Black (approximately 38,000 people), 2% identify their ethnicity as Mixed/Other (approximately 40,000 people).

Ethnic minority groupNumber of people

Where do these numbers come from?

These figures come from analysis we completed with the National Centre for Social Research. We used data from the Department for Work and Pensions Family Resources Survey, in combination with historic and future estimates of the make-up of the UK population.

Our methodology explains how we have measured complex disabilities.

Get in touch

Please contact [email protected] if you have any questions, or would like localised data for your area.