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Professor Eric Emerson


Eric Emerson

Lancaster University

Furness Building



Tel: +44 1524 592127

Research overview

My research focuses on better understanding the determinants of the health and social inequalities experienced by disabled people. We have a particular interest in estimating the influence of social determinants of health (e.g., poverty, social exclusion, discrimination) on the wellbeing of young people with disabilities and people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. One output of our work is the identification of potential approaches for reducing the health inequalities experienced by disabled people.

Current Research

Current projects I am involved with include:

  • ‘Understanding the health inequalities of people with disabilities in the UK through secondary analysis of large-scale survey data’ (in collaboration with Professor Chris Hatton, Dr Janet Robertson and Dr Suzanna Baines, Lancaster University)
  • ‘Improving the mental health of adults with intellectual disability’ (lead investigator: Dr Julian Troller, University of New South Wales, Australia)
  • ‘An audit of disability research in Australia’(lead investigator: Professor Gywnnyth Llewellyn, University of Sydney, Australia)
  • ‘Developing a questionnaire for a longitudinal study of disability in Australia’ (lead investigator: Professor Anne Kavanagh, University of Melbourne, Australia)
  • ‘Early intervention for behavioural disorders in children with intellectual disability’ (lead investigator: Professor Stewart Einfeld, University of Sydney, Australia)

Research Interests

Most of my current research seeks to apply public health frameworks and concepts (especially those associated with the ‘social determinants’ of health) to understanding the health of disabled people. It is often assumed that the poorer health of disabled people is largely attributable to the effects of the health condition associated with their disability (e.g., their intellectual disability). Our work has increasingly focused on the secondary analysis of large scale survey and administrative data to explore an alternative idea; that the poorer health of disabled people is largely attributable to their poorer living conditions, their social exclusion and their exposure to a range of associated environmental adversities (e.g., bullying, harassment, victimisation).  

We have looked at such areas as: the mental health, emotional and behavioural difficulties of children (and the parents of disabled children); the self-rated health and wellbeing of adults; obesity; health behaviours (e.g., smoking, alcohol and drug use, nutrition, physical exercise); a range of specific heath conditions; bullying and hate crime; and inequalities in accessing heath care.  Usually, though not always, it appears that a significant proportion of the risk for poorer health among people with disabilities can be explained by differences in their living conditions, rather than their disability per se.

We are now working with Public Health England to ensure that this knowledge about the determinants of the health inequalities of people with intellectual disabilities is made available to the public and to those responsible for commissioning, providing and regulating public services.

Our research has been supported by funds from the Department of Health, the Department for Education, the Office for Disability Issues, the Disability Rights Commission, the National Institute for Health Research, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Social Care Institute for Excellence, Mencap, the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, RNIB, SENSE, The Wellcome Trust, the Nuffield Foundation, a number of Local Authorities and local health care organisation, the Australian Research Council, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, the Irish National Disability Agency and the World Health Organization.


Additional Information

I am an Emeritus (formally retired but still active) Professor of Disability and Health Research in the Division of Health Research. I am also Professor of Disability Population Health at the Centre for Disability Research and Policy, University of Sydney. I am Vice-President of IASSIDD, the global community of research centres and researchers working in the area of intellectual and developmental disability, with responsibility for managing their work programme with the World Health Organization. I have previously held appointments at the University of Manchester, University of Kent and in a range of health care organisations in the UK and Canada.

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