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Invisible Disabilities and Hidden Determinants of Health

Although disability is part of being human, discrimination and social exclusion continue to impact individuals with disabilities. Over 1 billion people, about 15% of the global population, experience disability – and that number is rising. Many disabilities are obvious, like in a physical impairment. But there is a whole other classification of challenges that cannot be seen so easily.

Invisible disabilities are known as hidden disabilities or non-visible disabilities (NVD); disabilities are not immediately apparent and are typically chronic illnesses that impair normal activities of daily living. Invisible disabilities, or “Hidden Disabilities,” can impact a person’s activities of daily living, including efforts to go to school, work, socialize, and much more. Although disability creates a challenge for the individual who has it, the disability can be difficult for individuals’ relationships. Since others cannot visibly see evidence of it, others may not understand. The lack of understanding can be detrimental to a person’s relationships. Due to onlookers’ inability to see the invisible disabilities challenges, others may view an invisible disability as lazy, weak, or antisocial. An invisible disability may cause strain on friends and family due lack of understanding.

Common Invisible Disabilities

  1. Chronic fatigue

  2. Mental Illness

  3. Anxiety

  4. Depression

  5. ADHD

  6. Chronic Pain

  7. Fibromyalgia

  8. Arthritis

  9. Autism

  10. Chronic Dizziness

  11. Impaired hearing/ Hearing loss

  12. Visual impairments or restricted vision

  13. Sensory difficulties

  14. Processing difficulties

  15. Cognitive impairments

  16. later-onset or childhood dementia

  17. Traumatic brain injury

  18. Learning disability

  19. Chronic health conditions

  20. Diabetes

  21. Respiratory conditions

  22. Incontinence

Inequities and MIKID’s Response

A person’s environment has a huge effect on the experience and extent of disability. Inaccessible environments create barriers that often hinder the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in society on an equal basis with others. Progress in improving social participation can be made by addressing these barriers and facilitating persons with disabilities in their day-to-day lives.

MIKID works to fully integrate and promote disability inclusion throughout all locations. MIKID ensures that individuals with a disability have equitable access to effective health services. MIKID will continue to develop strategies for disability inclusion and consistently integrate it into all aspects of our programs and operations. MIKID also tracks our members’ Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) to ensure they receive the best treatment in a trauma-informed process. MIKID works to include those living with disabilities, have a fair and just opportunity to achieve their best health.

Social Determinants of Health (SDoH)

A person’s environment greatly affects the experience and extent of disability. Environments can create physical and mental barriers which often hinder the participation of persons with disabilities in the community on an equal basis with others. A component of these factors is social determinants of health (SDoH). SDoH is the non-medical factor that influences health outcomes. Improving social participation can be achieved by addressing barriers and promoting ease of daily life for people with disabilities.

Just like invisible disabilities, Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) are not immediately apparent but significantly impact an individual’s activities of daily living and quality of life. Social Determinants of health can have a significant influence on community health outcomes. Examples of these resources include but are not limited to, safe and affordable housing, access to education, public safety, availability of healthy foods, health services, and environmental threats. The SDOH sheds light on less visible factors in health and can help promote good health for all. Although poverty limits access to healthy foods and neighborhood safety, an individual’s zip code is one of the most powerful indicators for health outcomes. Research shows that social determinants can be more influential on individuals’ health than healthcare or health choices. For example, numerous studies suggest that SDoH accounts for 30-55% of health outcomes. Differences in health are striking in communities with poor SDoH, such as unstable housing, low income, unsafe neighborhoods, or substandard education. Applying what we know about SDoH individuals can improve individual and community health and advance health equity.

How to be Inclusive?

People need social connections. Feeling a sense of belonging, interacting with others, and communicating are essential to human development and well-being. Unfortunately, current practices in our workplaces, society, and culture do little to eliminate the barriers to include those with disabilities face. When our society marginalizes an entire group of people, the effects are devastating to both physical and mental health. A meta-analysis of the most common health risk factors, such as heavy smoking, binge drinking, physical inactivity, and obesity, shows that poor social relationships have a bigger effect on mortality than all the health risks. In fact, 76% of individuals with disabilities feel alone and isolated. Even more, when considering social isolation leads to a greater chance of poor physical and mental health. The bottom line: there is a disconnect in the availability and accessibility of opportunities for those with disabilities and the need for support.


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