Disability Rates Higher Among Low-Income People
U.S. residents ages 55 and older with annual incomes less than the federal poverty level are more likely to have disabilities that limit routine physical activities than those with higher incomes, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study published Thursday, Bloomberg/Dallas Morning News reports.
For the study, researchers at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Toronto examined Census 2000 Supplemental Survey data from 333,675 respondents ages 55 and older. According to the study, respondents ages 55 to 64 with annual incomes less than the federal poverty level -- at the time, $8,259 for an individual -- were six times more likely to have disabilities that limited activities such as walking, climbing stairs and lifting objects than those in the same age group with incomes of $60,000 or more.
The study also finds that the rate of disabilities continued to decrease among respondents ages 55 to 64 as annual incomes increased higher than $60,000. Study authors said the disparity did not result only because of more limited access to health care among respondents with lower annual incomes.
Meredith Minkler, a professor of health and social behavior at UC-Berkeley and lead author of the study, said, "Social class is a tremendously important risk factor for disability," adding, "If policy makers are concerned about improving health status, they need to focus not only on medical coverage, which only accounts for 10% to 15% of health status, they need to look at how to improve social class."
The Retirement Research Foundation and the National Institute on Aging at NIH funded the study (Bloomberg/Dallas Morning News, 8/16).