CDC: More Adults Reporting Disabilities

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , May 1, 2009

More than one in five American adults is reporting that they have a disability, a number that has increased by 3.4 million between 1999 and 2005 and which will most assuredly continue to grow over the next two decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC report, published in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, estimated that 47.5 million people, or nearly 22% of the population, report a disability, with heart disease, arthritis or rheumatism, and back and spinal problems among the leading complaints.

"It is likely we will see more dramatic increases in the number of adults with a disability as the baby boomer population begins to enter higher risk, older age groups over the next 20 years," says Chad Helmick, MD, CDC medical epidemiologist and coauthor of the study.

The report, gleaned from U.S. Census Bureau data, found that 24.4% of women reported having a disability, compared with 19.9% of men, regardless of age. The report also found that disability prevalence doubled with each older age group—11% for ages 18-44, 23.9% for ages 45-64, and 51.8% for ages 65 or older.

Helmick says CDC is working with state health departments and community health agencies to expand the availability of health self-management, education, and physical activity programs that could potentially reduce the impact and cost of the disabilities.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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