Reconciling Divergent Evidence on U.S. Trends in Late-Life Disability: An Update

Vicki A. Freedman, University of Michigan
Brenda Spillman, Urban Institute
Robert Schoeni, University of Michigan
Patricia Andreski, University of Michigan
Eileen Crimmins, University of Southern California
Ellen A. Kramarow, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), CDC
James Lubitz, Independent Consultant
Linda G. Martin, RAND Corporation
Sharon Merkin, University of California, Los Angeles
Teresa E. Seeman, University of California, Los Angeles
Timothy A. Waidmann, Urban Institute

The decline in the prevalence of late-life disability between the mid-1980s and early 2000s has been viewed as one of the most highly significant advances in the health and well-being of Americans in the past quarter century. Analyses based on more recent data have called into question whether such trends have continued. In this paper we update trends from five major national surveys to determine whether disability prevalence among the older population continued to decline in the first decade of the 21st century. Preliminary findings suggest that across studies personal care and domestic activity limitations may have continued to decline for those 85+, albeit at a less steep rate, but generally were flat for those 65-84. Inclusion of the institutional population is important for assessing trends in the 85+ group in particular. Trends for upper and lower body limitations were inconsistent across data sources and may warrant more additional study.

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Presented in Session 110: Trends and Dynamics in Health and Disability in Later Life