OBJECTIVE: To examine prevalence and predictors of secondary conditions in women with physical disabilities.
SETTING: Women were recruited through private and public health clinics and various community organizations.
PARTICIPANTS: A sample of 443 predominantly ethnic minority women with physical disabilities.
INTERVENTIONS: Not applicable.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Health Conditions Checklist interference score.
RESULTS: Aggregated data over a 1-year period showed that nearly the entire sample reported interference from pain (94.5%) and fatigue (93.7%) and that at least three quarters of the sample reported problems with spasticity (85.4%), weakness (81.8%), sleep problems (80.2%), vision impairment (77.9%), and circulatory problems (77.9%). Obesity was substantially more prevalent in this sample (47.6%) than in the general population of women (34.0%). The mean number of secondary conditions per woman +/- standard deviation was 14.6+/-6.2 (range, 1-42), with 75% of the sample endorsing 10 or more conditions. On average, women reported experiencing 5.7+/-4.03 (range, 0-20) conditions that they rated as significant or chronic. A third (33.4%) of the variance in interference scores was accounted for in the regression analysis, with significant variance accounted for by race, disability type (women with joint and connective tissue disorders and women with postpolio reported the highest overall interference scores), greater functional limitations, and lower levels of general mental health.
CONCLUSIONS: Secondary conditions in women with physical disabilities are substantially more problematic than reported previously in the literature. Further research is needed to determine health disparities of women with and without disabilities. Measurement issues and the clinical relevance of these findings are discussed.