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One in 50 Americans Lives With Paralysis
Date:4/21/2009

Survey shows spinal cord injuries much more common than thought

TUESDAY, April 21 (HealthDay News) -- One in 50 Americans, or 5.6 million people, live with some form of paralysis, a new survey shows.

There have been no solid estimates until now, said Joseph Canose, vice president of quality of life for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which released the survey Tuesday. The foundation was created by the late actor Christopher Reeve, who was paralyzed in a horse-riding accident in 1995, and his late wife, Dana.

"Around 4 million was guesstimated," Canose said, noting the new survey suggests that number is much larger. "Nearly 6 million people are living with paralysis, substantially higher than previous estimates."

Researchers surveyed more than 33,000 U.S. households, using input from more than 30 experts in paralysis and statistics to develop the study and survey. It was led by Anthony Cahill, a University of New Mexico disability researcher.

The major findings of the report, titled One Degree of Separation: Paralysis and Spinal Cord Injury in the United States:

  • Paralysis affects 1.9 percent of the U.S. population. That reflects the number who answered yes to two questions: Do you or does anyone in this household have any difficulty moving their arms or legs?
  • Spinal cord injury, one cause of paralysis studied, is more common than thought, with the new survey finding that 1.275 million people in the United States are affected. That is more than five times the number estimated in 2007, the report said.
  • Certain groups of people have a higher number of individuals living with paralysis, including blacks and Native Americans.
  • Low income is more common among households with someone affected by paralysis. About one-fourth of households with a person who is paralyzed make less than $10,000 a year, while only 7 percent of households in the gen
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