The cross-sectional association between severity of non-cognitive disability and self-reported worsening memory

Brad Cannell, Ph.D., M.P.H., Erin D. Bouldin, Ph.D., M.P.H., Kari Teigen, Wajiha Z. Akhtar, M.P.H., Elena M. Andresen, Ph.D.

Disability and Health Journal, Vol. 9, Issue 2, p289–297


Research has demonstrated a clear association between cognitive decline and non-cognitive disability; however, all of these studies focus on disability as a correlate or result of some level of cognitive impairment or dysfunction. The relationship between disability and cognition is likely a complex one, that is currently incompletely described in the literature.


Our objective was to estimate the prevalence of long-term, non-cognitive disability using a population-representative sample of adults aged 18 and older, and then estimate the association between long-term, non-cognitive disability and self-reported worsening memory.


Using the 2009 Florida Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), we measured the relationship between non-cognitive disability and worsening memory using multivariable logistic regression analysis weighted to account for the complex sampling design of the BRFSS. We also estimated the adjusted odds of worsening memory by disability severity, classified according to the types of assistance needed.


Approximately 18% (95% confidence interval = (16%, 19%)) of Floridians were living with a long-term, non-cognitive disability in 2009. Among adults with no disability during or prior to the last year, only 5% reported worsening memory. The proportion of Floridians reporting worsening memory increases with increasing severity of disability-related limitations. In a multivariable logistic regression model, odds of worsening memory increased significantly with severity of disability-related limitations.


These results highlight the association between non-cognitive disability and subsequent increased odds of worsening memory, independent of several other known risk factors, and a dose-response association with disability-related limitations.