Deaf People at Higher Risk of Developing Heart Disease, Diabetes


Deaf people who sign have poorer health than the general population, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the School for Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol, UK found that Deaf adults have high levels of risk factors for common conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The study, which compared the health of Deaf people with the hearing population, showed that Deaf people had high rates of raised blood pressure at assessment, which could reflect undetected hypertension and poorly controlled hypertension.

 Half of Deaf people reporting heart disease appeared to not be on appropriate treatment. One-third of Deaf participants had high cholesterol but treatment rates were half that of the general population rate. Overall, Deaf adults had similar rates of diabetes to the general population, but were less likely to be aware of problems with glucose tolerance and more likely to have inadequate control when they have been diagnosed with diabetes.

According to the charity SignHealth, which commissioned the work, the study "revealed shocking inequality in treatment, which means that some Deaf people are at risk of reduced life expectancy".

SignHealth claims the causes of this inequality include a lack of interpreters at consultations, inadequate booking procedures, and almost non-existent health information in sign language. The charity claims poor communication is leading to missed diagnoses and ineffective treatment.

"This is unintentional neglect, likely to lead to shortened lives," Steve Powell, Chief Executive of the Deaf Health Charity SignHealth, said in a statement. "A basic lack of knowledge on the part of health professionals is leaving a vulnerable community with inadequate healthcare."

The findings are detailed in the British Journal of General Practice.

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