Compression of Disability for Older Americans, 1992-2002

Liming Cai, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), CDC
James Lubitz, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), CDC

This study investigates the latest trends in functional disability among Americans 65 years and over, using two measures: age at first disability onset and disabled life expectancy. We fit a multi-state life table model to the 1992-2002 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey. We classified persons into three disability states: active, moderately disabled and severely disabled. Years in active life and moderate disability rose along with total life expectancy, while expected years in severe disability fell. Men had greater improvement than women. Disability incidence remained steady for moderate disability and was postponed for severe disability, while recovery rates rose. These findings support Manton’s hypothesis of dynamic equilibrium. These patterns exist for all age groups and for two different disability definitions (1. difficulty with task, or 2. receipt of help or equipment use), an indication that the disability improvement was broad-based.

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Presented in Session 95: Emerging Trends in the Health and Well-Being of Older Americans