Health of US parents with and without disabilities

Henan Li, PhD, Susan L. Parish, PhD, MSW, Monika Mitra, PhD, Joanne Nicholson, PhD

Disability and Health JournalVol. 10Issue 2p303–307



The health of parents with disabilities is not well understood. Existing research has used small, non-representative samples. The lack of research using national representative data has hindered advocacy and policy-making efforts.


In the present study, we used nationally-representative data to examine the prevalence rates of chronic physical health conditions among parents with disabilities and compared them to parents without disabilities.


We analyzed pooled and linked data from the 2007–2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the corresponding National Health Interview Survey. We conducted logistic regression analyses to examine age-adjusted health differences of US parents with and without disabilities, controlling for covariates. Outcome measures included obesity, arthritis, asthma, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, emphysema, high cholesterol, hypertension, and stroke.


After controlling for all model covariates and adjusting for age, parents with disabilities had significantly higher odds (aOR ranging from 1.69 to 4.82) of having each of the chronic conditions (P < 0.001). Parents with disabilities also have significant higher odds of having 2 conditions (aOR = 1.63), 3 conditions (aOR = 2.44), and 4 or more conditions (aOR = 5.56).


Parents with disabilities have significantly poorer health than parents without disabilities