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Prevalence of self-reported disability, activity limitation and social participation in Sri Lanka


G. V. S. Murthy ,

Indian Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad, IN
About G. V. S.
Department of Clinical Research, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
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E. Schmidt,

Sightsavers UK, Haywards Health, West Sussex, GB
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C. Gilbert,

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, US
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Department of Clinical Research
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S. Varughese,

CBM South Asia Region, Bengaluru, IN
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Regional Director
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H. B. Pant,

Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad, IN
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P. G. Mahipala,

Health Services, Ministry of Health, LK
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Director General
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A. P. Abeydeera

Ministry of Health, Govt., LK
About A. P.
Vision2020 Coordination Committee
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The World Health Organization estimates that 15% of the global population has a disability. Available evidence from Sri Lanka shows variable estimates of the magnitude of disability.



Determine the prevalence of self-reported disability in the adult population aged ≥18 years, and associated risk factors in a nationally representative sample in Sri Lanka.



The Washington Group short questionnaire was used to identify persons with self-reported disability. Data were collected from responsible adults aged ≥18 years in the selected households. A four point-scale: “no difficulty”, “some difficulty”, “a lot of difficulty” and “cannot do at all” was used. Individuals screening positive for disability were administered an additional questionnaire on activity limitations, social participation and their health and financial concerns.



Overall 41.5% (4131) [95% CI: 40.5-42.4] reported functional difficulty in at least one domain. The prevalence of disability, i.e. a lot of difficulty or cannot do at all was 3.8% (382) [95% CI: 3.5 – 4.2], while the prevalence of “some functional difficulty” was 37.6% (3749) [95% CI: 36.7-38.6]. 

The prevalence of disability increased with age and was higher among females, urban residents, and those with lower education and socio-economic status.  Minor degrees of functional difficulties were more common among older people, females and people with lower education.



The prevalence of disability and varying degrees of functional difficulty is high among the adult population of Sri Lanka. Evidence shows that a strategic plan is required to address the magnitude of disability and functional limitations in Sri Lanka.

How to Cite: Murthy, G.V.S., Schmidt, E., Gilbert, C., Varughese, S., Pant, H.B., Mahipala, P.G. and Abeydeera, A.P., 2018. Prevalence of self-reported disability, activity limitation and social participation in Sri Lanka. Ceylon Medical Journal, 63(5), pp.s53–s60. DOI:
Published on 31 Oct 2018.
Peer Reviewed


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