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Arthritis a Leading Cause of Disability in U.S.

Posted May 15 2009 10:44pm

A recently released report states that arthritis or rheumatism and back or spine problems were the two leading causes of disability in adults in 2005. These two disability causes, along with heart problems (cited as the third most disabling condition) contributed to an overall national disability rate of 21.8% which affected nearly 47.5 million people in 2005.

The disability report was developed from cross-sectional findings derived from an analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S Census Bureau of data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), a survey that included male and female volunteers that were 18 years and older.

Women had a notably higher prevalence of disability at 24.4% compared with men (19.1%) at all ages, according to the findings by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The investigators also discovered that arthritis or rheumatism affected 8.6 million people, or 19.0% of the population and among women was the most reported cause of disability, at 24.3%.

7.6 million adults, or 16.3% of the population, were affected by back or spine problems. More men than women considered back or spine problems the primary cause of their disability, which represented 16.9% of reported disability in men.

The overall disability rate in 2005 was unchanged from the one calculated in 1999 (22.0%), which was calculated using the same type of subjects and sampling method.

However, “Particularly in the large group born during 1946-1964 (ie, the baby boomers), the estimated absolute number of persons reporting a disability increased 7.7%, from 44.1 to 47.5 million,” authors of the report wrote.

The report was published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) whose editors identified some limitations in the report, saying exclusion of institutionalized persons resulted in conservative estimates, particularly in those 65 years of age and older who are more likely to reside in institutions.

Furthermore, SIPP survey data were likely subject to sampling and non-sampling errors that were hard to control for. There was also no way to ensure all survey participants used the same definition of disability, they said.

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