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Disability may be on the rise again after 20-year decline
Date:12/22/2009

Berkeley Disability rates among non-institutionalized older Americans increased between 2000 and 2005, a trend that could seriously impact the quality of life of seniors in the coming decades if it continues, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of California, Berkeley.

The findings are troubling, said the authors, because they suggest that the steady decline since the 1980s of disability rates among older adults may have ended. Adding to the concern is the expected doubling between 2000 and 2030 of the number of Americans over 65 as the Baby Boom generation continues to age.

"The combination of increasing disability rates plus a growing population of older adults emphasizes the importance of prevention of the many chronic conditions giving rise to disability in the first place," said the study's lead author, Esme Fuller-Thomson, professor of social work at the University of Toronto. "There is evidence, for example, that the doubling of obesity rates over the last three decades may be linked to rising disability in older people, yet the obesity problem is largely preventable."

The study, appearing in the December issue of the Journals of Gerontology, reflects a 9 percent increase over five years in non-institutionalized adults 65 and over reporting difficulty in basic activities of daily living. Those functions include dressing, bathing and in-home mobility due to a physical, mental or emotional condition lasting six months or more.

"People are living longer, but many are also living sicker," said study co-author Amani Nuru-Jeter, assistant professor of community health and human development at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health. "This study is providing an early warning sign that the decline in disability rates we've been hearing about might be ending."

The authors pointed to the potential to stem the increase in disability rates if health care refor
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Contact: Sarah Yang
scyang@berkeley.edu
510-643-7741
University of California - Berkeley
Source:Eurekalert

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