One in four Americans is living with a disability, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Disability can range from impaired vision to mobility challenges and cognitive problems, but in all forms, these individuals struggle to access health care and tend to have poorer quality of life overall.
Worse yet, those with disabilities are more likely to live closer to the poverty line, further increasing the barriers between them and good health care and health.
The CDC’s report found that older Americans were most likely to face a disability – primarily related to mobility, while more younger people have cognitive issues.
Disability means that 61 million Americans face greater challenges working and accessing health care than others, and tend to be minorities, women or people with low incomes
As we age, the body has a harder and harder time repairing itself.
Cells die off throughout our lives, but in most parts of our body, new ones form to replace the expired ones.
That process slows as we get older.
So older Americans are more vulnerable to disability, which makes them more care, but also makes that care more difficult to access.
Nearly half – 47 percent – of people over 65 in the US live with some form of disability.
Far and away the most common disabilities among this group related to mobility. More than a quarter of seniors reported that walking or climbing stairs poses a serious challenge to them.
This age group also has the highest rates of all other forms of disability, and the American population is aging in general as baby boomers reach their 65th birthdays.
Last year’s report found that 53 million Americans have disabilities; now, 61 million live with some form of impairment.
It is not just the older Americans who live with disabilities.
Nearly 20 percent of middle-aged adults – between 45 and 64 – have mobility issues too, and among younger adults, ‘cognitive’ disabilities are most common, striking over 10 percent of the 18-44 population.
Mobility issues are the leading form of disability in the US, particularly among older Americans, while cognitive impairments are the most common issue for 18- to 44-year-olds
Hearing and vision issues affect about six and five percent of the population, respectively.
More debilitating problems that interfere with the ability to take care of oneself – including tasks like bathing and dressing – strike about four percent of Americans, and some seven percent can do these basic care tasks, but find grocery shopping or other hallmarks of independent living difficult.
Disability in the US also highlight several patterns of health inequality.
Women are more likely to suffer from any form of disability than are men.
Minorities – including black, Hispanic, Native American and multiracial people – also have higher rates of disabilities than white and Asian Americans.
It seems that aging happens earlier and hits harder for those with lower incomes.
By middle age, there are more than five times as many disabled poor Americans as there are wealthy ones.
Just 16.6 percent of wealthy people between 45 and 64 are disabled, while 58 percent of those in the lowest income bracket are already struggling with some impairment.
‘Social determinants of health, such as sex, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, geographic location, and access to and use of quality health services influence the health and well-being of populations,’ the CDC wrote.
‘The multiple determinants of health underscore the need for cross-sector approaches to effectively mitigate health inequities experienced by persons with disabilities.’