CODI: Cornucopia of Disability Information

Cornucopia of Disability Information

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Prevalence of Disability by Type


The disability questions that were included in the SIPP topical module on disability covered many important dimensions of disability. Questions about six functional activities, six activities of daily living (ADL's), five instrumental activities of daily living (lADL's), the use of wheelchairs and other aids, and the presence of five classes of impairments (learning disabilities, mental retardation, other developmental disabilities, Alzheimer's/senility/dementia, and other mental or emotional conditions) were asked for all persons 15 years of age or older. Questions about work disability were asked for all persons 16 to 67 years old, and questions about housework disability were asked for persons 16 years old or older. In addition, questions about the disability status of children were asked of parents of children 0 to 21 years of age.

The 48.9 million persons counted as having a disability (see table A) were identified by one or more of the items described above or by the fact that they were a nonaged beneficiary of either Medicare or the SSI program.

The 24.1 million persons counted as having a severe disability were identified as unable to perform one or more activities, or as having one or more specific impairments, or as a person who used a wheelchair or who was a long term user of crutches, a cane, or a walker.

Of the 195.7 million persons 15 years old and over, 34.2 million (17.5 percent) had difficulty with one or more functional activities (see table B) and 15.2 million (7.8 percent) were unable to perform one or more activities (The group of persons with some difficulty includes the group who were unable to perform the activity).

Relatively large numbers of persons were identified as having difficulty with physical activities. In all, 16.2 million persons (8.3 percent) had difficulty lifting and carrying a weight as heavy as 10 pounds, and 7.7 million (4.0 percent) could not perform this task at all; 17.3 million (8.9 percent) persons had difficulty walking a quarter of a mile or 3 city blocks, and 9.0 million (4.6 percent) could not walk this distance at all.

The number having difficulty seeing the words and letters in ordinary newsprint was 9.7 million (5.0 percent) and the number who were completely unable to see words and letters was 1.6 million (0.8 percent). The number who had difficulty hearing what was said in an ordinary conversation with another person was 10.9 million (5.6 percent) and 0.9 million (0.5 percent) persons could not hear such a conversation at all. The least prevalent of the six functional limitations was difficulty having one's speech understood. The number identified as having difficulty with this functional activity was 2.3 million (1.2 percent); the number unable to have their speech understood at all was 0.2 million (0.1 percent).

Of the 34.2 million persons having difficulty with one or more functional activities, more than half had difficulty with more than one activity; 14.5 million had difficulty with one; 7.1 million had difficulty with two; and 12.6 million had difficulty with three or more.

Among the 15.2 million persons who were unable to perform one or more functional activities, 7.0 million were unable to perform one activity, 4.0 million were unable to perform two activities, and 4.3 million were unable to perform three or more activities (the latter two figures are not statistically different).

Persons were much less likely to have difficulty with an ADL than to have difficulty performing a functional activity (see table C) . The number of persons 15 years old and over who had difficulty with one or more ADL's

was 7.9 million (4.1 percent). Of this number, 3.9 million (2.0 percent of the population 15 years old and over) required the assistance of another person with one or more of the basic six activities.

Data for individual ADL's show that 5.3 million persons had difficulty getting in or out of bed or a chair, 4.5 million had difficulty with the activity of bathing, 3.7 million persons had difficulty getting around inside the home, 3.2 million had difficulty with the activity of dressing, 2.1 million had difficulty using the toilet (including getting to the toilet), and 1.1 million had difficulty with the activity of eating.

The number needing assistance with the specific ADL's was 2.7 million for bathing, 2.1 million for dressing, 2.0 million for getting in or out of bed or a chair (a figure not statistically different from the preceding figure), 1.7 million for getting around inside the home, 1.2 million for using the toilet, and 0.5 million for eating.

It is likely that a person having difficulty with an ADL will have difficulties in two or more activities. Of the 7.9 million persons with an ADL limitation, 3.3 million had difficulty with one activity, and 4.6 million had difficulty with two or more. Of those needing assistance, 1.5 million needed assistance with one activity, and 2.4 million needed assistance with two or more.

Persons are more likely to experience difficulties with lADL's than with ADL's (see table D) . The number having difficulty with one or more of the five lADL's was 11.7 million or 6.0 percent of the 15 and over population.

The number of persons having difficulty with individual lADL's was 7.8 million for going outside the home to shop or visit a doctor's office, 6.3 million for doing light housework such as washing dishes or sweeping a floor, 4.5 million for preparing meals, 3.9 million for keeping track of money and bills, and 3.1 million for using the telephone.

Among those needing assistance with an IADL were 6.0 million for going outside the home to shop or visit a doctor's office, 4.7 million for doing light housework, 3.7 million for preparing meals, and 3.4 million for keeping track of money and bills (not statistically different from the preceding figure). The number of persons who were unable to use a telephone was 0.9 million.

Multiple IADL difficulties were more prevalent than single IADL difficulties. Of the 11.7 million persons with some difficulty, 5.0 million had difficulty with one IADL, 2.5 million had difficulty with two, and 4.2 million had difficulty with three or more. Of those needing assistance with one or more lADL's, 3.7 million needed help with one, 2.0 million needed help with two, and 3.1 million needed help with three or more.

Based on responses to the ADL and IADL questions, the number of persons needing assistance with one or more activities was 9.2 million, or 4.7 percent of the population 15 years old and over. (The latter figure is not statistically different from the 4.5 percent needing assistance with an IADL.)

The number of persons 15 years old and over who used a wheelchair was 1.5 million; another 4.0 million did not use a wheelchair but had used a cane, crutches, or a walker for 6 months or longer.

There were several items on the questionnaire that attempted to identify persons with a mental or emotional disability. In this study, a person 15 years old and over was considered to have a mental or emotional disability if the person: (a) was identified by one of the questions that asked if the person had a learning disability, had mental retardation, had Alzheimer's disease, senility, or dementia, or had any other mental or emotional condition; (b) had a functional, ADL, or IADL limitation or a work or housework disability that was caused by any of four conditions including learning disability, mental or emotional problems or disorders, mental retardation, or senility, dementia, or Alzheimer's disease; or (c) had difficulty keeping track of money and bills.

The number of persons 15 years old and over identified as having a mental or emotional disability was 6.9 million, or 3.5 percent of all persons in this age group (see table E).

Work disability questions were asked of persons 16 to 67 years old and housework disability questions were asked of persons 16 years old and over. The number of persons with a work disability was 19.5 million or 11.6 percent of the 16 to 67 year old population (see table E). Of the 19.5 million, 8.6 million (5.1 percent) had a condition that prevented them from working at a job or business. The number of persons with a housework disability was 18.1 million (9.4 percent of persons 16 years old and over.) The number unable to do housework was 3.6 million (1.9 percent).

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