BACKGROUND: National survey data indicate the number of individuals reporting a disability is rising. Those with disabilities experience a large number of barriers to health promotion and disease prevention programming. However, only a limited number of studies have used nationally representative data to examine the health status of individuals with disabilities in comparison to those without disabilities.
OBJECTIVE/HYPOTHESIS: We used the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey (MEPS) to examine whether disability is associated with higher prevalence rates for common chronic diseases, lower use of preventive care and higher health care expenditures. Our research hypothesis was that nationally, adults with either physical disability or cognitive limitations experience significant health disparities in comparison to those with no disability.
METHODS: We conducted a retrospective analysis comparing the health of adults (18 and over) with physical disabilities or cognitive limitations to individuals with no disability using data from the 2006 full year consolidated data file from the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey (MEPS). We used chi-squared tests, t-tests, and logistic regression to evaluate the association.
RESULTS: Individuals with physical disabilities or cognitive limitations had significantly higher prevalence rates for 7 chronic diseases than persons with no disabilities. The disability groups were also significantly less likely than the no disability group to receive 3 types of preventive care.
CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that adults with disabilities and chronic conditions receive significantly fewer preventive services and have poorer health status than individuals without disabilities who have the same health conditions. This indicates a need for public health interventions that address the unique characteristics of adults with disabilities, many of whom are at risk for high cost, debilitating conditions that may not have as severe an effect on other population segments.