Over the next 20 years, aging Baby Boomers are expected to cause large increases in the number of U.S. adults with disabilities, says a new study that calls for expansion of programs to prevent and manage obesity, physical inactivity, tobacco use and other causes of disability.
In 2005, 21.8 percent of U.S. adults (47.5 million) reported a disability, an increase of 3.4 percent since 1999, the study said. Arthritis and rheumatism, back or spine problems, and heart trouble were the top three most common causes of disability.
Women have a higher rate of disability than men (24.4 percent vs. 19.1 percent). The study also found that disability rates increase with age, doubling with each successive age group (18-44, 11 percent; 45-64, 23.9 percent; 65 and older, 51.8 percent).
Currently, about as many Baby Boomers (45-64) are affected by disability as older adults. This suggests that the demands placed on the health care and public health systems by Baby Boomers will increase as they age into higher risk groups, the researchers said.
The study appears in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.