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Common Risk Factors Impacting Disability Rate

Published: 2017-04-07 - Updated: 2022-06-24
Author: University of Michigan | Contact: umich.edu
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Disability Information Publications

Synopsis: Reducing or eliminating five common risk factors could decrease the prevalence of disability across the United States, according to research led by the University of Michigan. U.S. states vary widely when it comes to the level of disability. If you compare the ten states with the lowest rates to the ten states with the highest rates, there is nearly a twofold difference in the disability rate. Disability is a significant driver of health care costs, and past estimates suggest that up to one-quarter of health care expenditures have been associated with disability. This percentage is even higher for the Medicare population - nearly 40 percent of Medicare spending has been associated with disability.

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Main Digest

The percentage of people with disabilities in the U.S. declined steadily during the 1980s and '90s but has since plateaued. New research published this week in the journal Health Affairs shows if certain modifiable risk factors - smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure - were eliminated, the number of people with a disability would be reduced by 53 percent nationally.

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The researchers, led by Neil Mehta, assistant professor of health management and policy at the U-M School of Public Health, also wanted to investigate how a more realistic risk factor reduction effort could impact disability rates.

"U.S. states vary widely when it comes to level of disability," Mehta said. "If you compare the ten states with the lowest rates to the ten states with the highest rates, there is nearly a twofold difference in the disability rate."

Using the states with the lowest risk factor rates as targets, Mehta and colleagues found that reducing risk factors across the U.S. would decrease the overall prevalence of disability by up to 7 percent.

While this doesn't seem like much, Mehta says that states with a higher prevalence of risk factors and disability, such as those in the South and the Midwest, could see disability reductions of more than 10 percent under this scenario.

"We thought we would see a larger reduction in disability rates," he said. "This tells us that we need more aggressive targets for risk factor reduction. All states can improve."

The good news, Mehta says, is that the three risk factors that have the biggest impact on disability - obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure - can be improved through public health.

"Obesity might be the most challenging to address," he said. "And, while the percentage of adults who smoke cigarettes has been declining, cigarette smoking continues to take a large toll on population health. In this case, we clearly show its negative effects on disability levels."

The researchers looked at survey data for nearly 400,000 Americans ages 18 to 79 surveyed through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an annual national telephone survey. To measure disability, they used survey responses to three questions from the BRFSS:

Respondents who answered "yes" to at least one of these questions were classified as disabled.

About 15 percent of the adults surveyed reported having a disability, with the prevalence of disability increasing with age. More than a quarter of people ages 65 to 79 were classified as disabled.

"Disability is a major driver of health care costs, and past estimates suggest that up to one-quarter of health care expenditures have been associated with disability," Mehta said. "This percentage is even higher for the Medicare population - nearly 40 percent of Medicare spending has been associated with disability."

Researchers from the Emory University School of Public Health also contributed to this study.

Reference Source(s):

Common Risk Factors Impacting Disability Rate | University of Michigan (umich.edu). Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

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Cite This Page (APA): University of Michigan. (2017, April 7). Common Risk Factors Impacting Disability Rate. Disabled World. Retrieved January 31, 2023 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/risk-factor.php

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