One in 4 U.S. adults – 61 million Americans – have a disability that impacts major life activities, according to a report in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The most common disability type, mobility, affects 1 in 7 adults. With age, disability becomes more common, affecting about 2 in 5 adults age 65 and older.
“At some point in their lives, most people will either have a disability or know someone who has a one,” said Coleen Boyle, Ph.D., director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “Learning more about people with disabilities in the United States can help us better understand and meet their health needs.”
Six types of disability measured
Using data from the 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), this is the first CDC report of the percentage of adults across six disability types:
- Mobility (serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs)
- Cognition (serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions)
- Hearing (serious difficulty hearing)
- Vision (serious difficulty seeing)
- Independent living (difficulty doing errands alone)
- Self-care (difficulty dressing or bathing)
These data show that disability is more common among women, non-Hispanic American Indians/Alaska Natives, adults with lower income, and adults living in the South Census region of the United States. The report also shows that:
- After mobility disability, the next most common disability type is cognition, followed by independent living, hearing, vision, and self-care.
- The percentage of adults with disability increased as income decreased. In fact, mobility disability is nearly five times as common among middle-aged (45- to 64-year old) adults living below the poverty level compared to those whose income is twice the poverty level.
- It is more common for adults 65 years and older with disabilities to have health insurance coverage, a primary doctor, and receive a routine health checkup during the previous 12 months, compared to middle-aged and younger adults with disabilities.
- Disability-specific differences in the ability to access health care are common, particularly among adults 18- to 44-years old and middle-aged adults. Generally, adults with vision disability report the least access to health care, while adults with self-care disability report the most access to care.
“People with disabilities will benefit from care coordination and better access to health care and the health services they need, so that they adopt healthy behaviors and have better health,” said Georgina Peacock, M.D., M.P.H., Director of CDC’s Division of Human Development and Disability. “Research showing how many people have a disability and differences in their access to health care can guide efforts by health care providers and public health practitioners to improve access to care for people with disabilities.”
CDC is committed to protecting the health and well-being of people with disabilities throughout their lives. Through its State Disability and Health Programs and national collaborations, CDC will continue to work to lower health differences faced by people with disabilities. To advance this goal, CDC provides information and resources for public health practitioners, doctors, and those who care for people with disabilities.
For more information about CDC’s work to support inclusive settings for people with disabilities, go to http://www.cdc.gov/disabilities.