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Our response to Sport England’s Active Lives 2022/23 report

Today, Sport England released the latest data from the Active Lives Adult Survey with over 170,000 people taking part. Activity Alliance’s research team has delved into the data, focusing on disabled people.

Group of disabled people doing leg stretches during a group PT session

While there’s been progress in increasing activity levels for adults, with the number of active adults increasing by two million since the survey began, disabled people continue to be one of the least active groups. Disabled people are still twice as likely to be inactive compared to non-disabled people (40.8% vs 20.7%). This consistent trend highlights the importance of focusing on the people and places that need the most support to be active.  

We support Sport England’s recognition that activity levels for adults are unsatisfactory. Despite improvements since the survey began, a quarter of the adult population remains inactive, including two-fifths of disabled people. Inequalities in sport and activity remain. These findings highlight the continual need to tackle inequalities in the sector to achieve fairness in sport and activity.  

Responding to the findings Adam Blaze, CEO of Activity Alliance, said: 

"To see two million more adults active since 2015 shows that people across England understand the benefits of being active. It shows that with targeted measures a real difference can be made to increase activity levels. Although we are pleased to see the data showing a stable number of disabled people being active, disabled people remain twice as likely to be inactive as their non-disabled peers. 
"None of us should be content if the number of disabled people being active is not increasing at a noticeable rate. We cannot change deep-rooted inequalities alone. Our work with Sport England and other partners is crucial. We must increase our efforts, raise awareness and create more opportunities for the millions of disabled people across the country who do not have the chance to be active. 
"It is worrying that disabled adults or those with a long-term health condition are notably less likely to have positive attitudes compared to non-disabled adults. We need to significantly increase our efforts to provide welcoming environments. Everyone deserves the right to be active, so it is vital to ensure that no-one feels that activity is not for them. 
"Disabled people must not be left behind. It’s vital that the right support, in the right places, with the right people, is provided to ensure sport and physical activity is genuinely inclusive for all." 

Inactivity levels for disabled people

Inactivity levels (doing less than 30 minutes of activity a week) for disabled people have stabilised, seeing no change since last year. The data shows that disabled people remain one of the least active groups.

  • This year, 40.8% (estimated 6.5 million[1]) disabled people were inactive, compared to 20.7% of non-disabled people. This means that two-fifths of disabled people are not experiencing the well-known benefits of being active.
  • Disabled people’s inactivity levels have still not returned to pre-pandemic levels (39.8%). Following the pandemic, inequalities were further widened by the cost of living crisis. Disabled people were more likely to be hit harder and reduce how active they were compared to non-disabled people[2].
  • The fairness gap, measuring the difference between the proportion of inactive disabled people and the proportion of inactive non-disabled people remains at 20.1%.
  • The more impairments a disabled person has the more likely they are to be inactive.

Stabilising activity despite the ongoing cost of living crisis can be perceived as positive. However, from our Annual Disability and Activity Survey[2] findings, we know disabled people think this is not good enough.

[1] Department for Work & Pensions. Family Resources Survey: financial year 2022 to 2023.

[2] Activity Alliance. Annual Disability and Activity Survey, 2022/23.

Multiple impairments

Over seven in ten disabled people have more than one impairment. Inactivity rises significantly with the number of impairments someone has, with nearly half of people with three or more impairments remaining inactive.

  • 31.9% of people with one impairment are inactive.
  • 38.2% of people with two impairments are inactive.
  • 47.7% of people with three or more impairments are inactive.

Please contact the National Disability Sports Organisations for support on engaging with people with specific impairments.

Other inequalities

The data highlights how other demographic and social factors have a significant impact on how active people are.

People in lower social groups (those in semi-routine and routine occupations; long-term unemployment or have never worked) have higher levels of inactivity and are one of the few groups who have continued to see significant increases in inactivity levels over the past two years. We know disabled people are more likely to experience poverty and unemployment[3].

Other persistent inequalities from last year are women and older age groups. A larger proportion of women are disabled compared to men, and disability becomes more prevalent with age[1].

This shows the importance of continuing to consider an individual’s social and demographic factors alongside someone’s impairment or health condition.

[3] Joseph Rowntree Foundation, UK Poverty Report 2024.

Mental wellbeing

Disabled people’s personal wellbeing is lower than non-disabled people. Findings show disabled people are more likely to report lower average scores of life satisfaction (5.89 vs 7.32), happiness (5.83 vs 7.36), feelings of worthwhileness (6.09 vs 7.44), and higher average scores for anxiety (4.62 vs 3.28) compared to non-disabled people.

The Active Lives report shows the positive associations between activity levels and mental wellbeing.


Disabled people are less likely to have positive attitudes compared to non-disabled people and are experiencing fewer improvements.

  • Capability: 18.1% of disabled people strongly agree that ‘I feel I have the ability to be physically active’, compared to 46.5% of non-disabled people. This has seen a small increase since last year but is unchanged compared to pre-pandemic.
  • Opportunity: 17.2% of disabled people strongly agree that ‘I feel I have the opportunity to be physically active’, compared to 39.3% of non-disabled people. This has improved slightly since last year but is significantly lower than pre-pandemic. In contrast, perceived opportunity has increased among non-disabled people, widening the gap.
  • Enjoyment: 19% of disabled people strongly agree that ‘I find sport enjoyable and satisfying’, compared to 35.9% of non-disabled people. This has remained constant with findings from last year and pre-pandemic.

The data continues to show having a positive attitude is associated with being more active, volunteering, improving wellbeing, and individual and community development. This reinforces how positive experiences of being active not only benefit personal health but also help build stronger communities.  

Types of activity

Overall walking (62.2%), active travel (34.9%) and sporting activities (34.4%) are the highest broad activity categories for adults. The types of activities participants can report include some disability-specific sports; boccia, goalball, paragliding, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair rugby.

Consistent with last year there were no responses to disability-specific activities. Therefore, data is not available about disability or impairment specific sports and physical activity. Currently, the data only breaks down types of activities by gender. However, using the Active Lives tool, when updated with this year’s data, will enable types of activity data to be examined by disability. Read our guidance on how best to use the tool.


Disabled people are less likely to volunteer to support sport and physical activity. 17.3% of disabled people compared to 22.9% of non-disabled people have volunteered within the last year. The more impairments a disabled person has the less likely they are to volunteer, as 22.4% of those with one impairment compared to 13.1% of those with three or more impairments have volunteered within the last year.

Disabled people were most likely to volunteer once a week (5.5%) or once every few months (4.2%). Disabled people’s volunteering in coaching roles has increased slightly since last year (4.4%), but remains lower than non-disabled people (6.7%). The Active Lives report highlights the positive relationship between frequency of volunteering and individual development. 

About the survey

This report presents data from the Active Lives Adult Survey for 2022-23. Data is presented from 172,968 adults (aged 16+) in England and was collected between November 2022 and November 2023 using an online and paper questionnaire. The survey is carried out by Ipsos Mori, and data is weighted to key demographics and geography measures from the Office for National Statistics.

Useful resources

We continue to support organisations and people who deliver activities to support disabled people to be active.

Here are some useful resources:

More research or insight

Please get in touch with the research team at Activity Alliance to discuss our response: