Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Disability Prevalence

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Purpose—Worldwide, the number of disabled individuals is used as a marker for population health status because of high morbidity and mortality burden associated with disability. The primary objective of the current study is to use the 2012 NHIS disability supplement and examine racial/ethnic disparities in disability after controlling for a comprehensive list of factors, using the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (WHO-ICF). Methods—A retrospective cross-sectional study design with data from 7993 individuals aged above 21 years from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) was adopted. Disability was defined based on a standard set of questions related to mobility, self-care, and cognition from the “Functioning and Disability” supplement of 2012 NHIS. Chi-squared tests and multinomial logistic regressions were conducted to examine the association between race/ethnicity and disability. Results—There were statistically significant racial/ethnic differences in disability status; 10.2 % non-Hispanic whites, 14.8 % non-Hispanic African Americans, 8.1 % Latino, and 6.7 % other racial minorities had severe disability. Non-Hispanic African Americans were more likely to have severe disability than were non-Hispanic whites (OR = 1.56, 95 % CI = 1.24, 1.95), and Latinos were less likely to have severe disability (OR = 0.70, 95 % CI = 0.55, 0.90) in the unadjusted model. There was no difference in disability status among non-Hispanic African Americans and non-Hispanic whites after adjusting for socio-economic status. Conclusion—The study findings highlighted the role of socioeconomic characteristics in reducing disparities in disability between non-Hispanic African Americans and non-Hispanic whites. As SES can affect health through a complex interaction of biological, psychological, lifestyle, environmental, social, and neighborhood factors, a multipronged approach that focuses on primary, secondary, and territory prevention of disability is needed.