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BACKGROUND: Globally, 1·3 billion people have a disability and are more likely to experience poor health than the general population. However, little is known about the mortality or life expectancy gaps experienced by people with disabilities. We aimed to undertake a systematic review and meta-analysis of the association between disability and mortality, compare these findings to the evidence on the association of impairment types and mortality, and model the estimated life expectancy gap experienced by people with disabilities. METHODS: We did a mixed-methods study, which included a systematic review and meta-analysis, umbrella review, and life expectancy modelling. For the systematic review and meta-analysis, we searched MEDLINE, Global Health, PsycINFO, and Embase for studies published in English between Jan 1, 2007, and June 7, 2023, investigating the association of mortality and disability. We included prospective and retrospective cohort studies and randomised controlled trials with a baseline assessment of disability and a longitudinal assessment of all-cause mortality or cause-specific mortality. Two reviewers independently assessed study eligibility, extracted the data, and assessed risk of bias. We did a random-effects meta-analysis to calculate a pooled estimate of the mortality rate ratio for people with disabilities compared with those without disabilities. We did an umbrella review of meta-analyses examining the association between different impairment types and mortality. We used life table modelling to translate the mortality rate ratio into an estimate of the life expectancy gap between people with disabilities and the general population. The systematic review and meta-analysis is registered with PROSPERO, CRD42023433374. FINDINGS: Our search identified 3731 articles, of which 42 studies were included in the systematic review. The meta-analysis included 31 studies. Pooled estimates showed that all-cause mortality was 2·24 times (95% CI 1·84-2·72) higher in people with disabilities than among people without disabilities, although heterogeneity between the studies was high (τ2=0·28, I2=100%). Modelling indicated a median gap in life expectancy of 13·8 years (95% CI 13·1-14·5) by disability status. Cause-specific mortality was also higher for people with disabilities, including for cancer, COVID-19, cardiovascular disease, and suicide. The umbrella review identified nine meta-analyses, which showed consistently elevated mortality rates among people with different impairment types. INTERPRETATION: Mortality inequities experienced by people with disabilities necessitate health system changes and efforts to address inclusion and the social determinants of health. FUNDING: National Institute for Health and Care Research, Rhodes Scholarship, Indonesia Endowment Funds for Education, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Programme for Evidence to Inform Disability Action), and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Original publication




Journal article


Lancet Public Health

Publication Date





e306 - e315


Humans, Disabled Persons, Life Expectancy, Mortality