Rising Disability Rates among Boomers

January 5th, 2010 | Sources: BurrillReport


Baby Boomers that are just now entering their sixties are likely to be more burdened by disabilities than their counterparts in earlier generations, according to UCLA scientists. If their projections prove accurate, it could have a devastating impact on the nation’s health system.

gettinhardertoreadthisTo reach these conclusions, Teresa Seeman and colleagues queried data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) for the years 1988 and 1999.

They looked at 4 areas: activities of daily living, like walking from room to room; instrumental activities like doing chores; functional limitations like kneeling or stooping; and mobility, which includes walking one-quarter mile without a rest.

The study focused on adults born between 1930 and 1944, because this group could offer the most insight into the problems that will be associated with Baby Boomers who are now entering their 60s.

The researchers found that between 1988 and 1999, disability among people in their sixties rose 40-70% percent in each of the 4 areas except functional limitations, even after controlling for socioeconomic characteristics, health status and weight.

The increases were pronounced in non-white people, a subset of the US population that is growing most rapidly and that is known to have a higher incidence of obesity and lower socioeconomic status. These factors are associated with an increased risk of functional limitations and disabilities.

“If this is true, it’s something we need to address,” Teresa Seeman, the study’s principal investigator told BurrillReport. “If this trend continues unchecked, it will put increasing pressure on our society to take care of these disabled individuals.”

The study will appear in the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health.


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