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What Disables People?

By Scott B. Elkind, Esq.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its Morbidity and Mortality Report on July 31, 2015 which provides information concerning disability types and prevalence for the year 2013.

Overall, 22.2% of the United States adult population reported any disability. The most reported types of disability involve mobility (13%) and cognition (10.6%), with all types of disability increasing with age.

The prevalence of disability differs greatly among the states. For example, Minnesota has a 16.4% rate of disability as compared to 31.5% in Alabama. Further, types of disability vary similarly, as there is a 2.7% rate of visual disability in Idaho as compared to 8.1% in New Hampshire. There is a greater rate of disability in southern states which have higher social determinants of poor health which are associated with disability.

There are gender differences in disability prevalence with 24.4% of women reporting disability in contrast to 19.8% of men.

Disability also varies with household income. Persons with household income of less than $15,000 per year (50%) or who did not have a high school diploma (40%) suffered a much higher rate of disability than person with household income of over $50,000 (10.8%) and who had a college degree (11.8%).

Disability is also associated with health disparities in behavioral risk factors such as smoking, physical inactivity, and preventative health measures.

This information is corroborated by the findings of the United States Census Bureau (Report dated 7/25/12) which found that 58.7 million persons in the U.S. have a disability with half of these reporting it as “severe.” This constituted a 2.2 million person increase since 2005 which remained constant in terms of number expected, but with a large increase in the percentage of those reporting “severe” disability.

The 2014 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research set forth other useful statistics. There was a 2.2% increase in disability from 2013. The state reporting the largest percentage increase was North Dakota (7.3%) and the smallest was Rhode Island (0.1%). A projected 15% increase in the disabled population is expected by 2030.

Childhood disability is rare with only 0.8% of children under age of 5 suffering from a disability. This increases to 5.4% for person ages 5 to 17 years and increasing again to 10.5% for person aged 18 to 64. Again, poverty accounted for increased rates of disability with 28.7% of persons living in poverty suffering from a disability.

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