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Chronic Disease and Trends in Severe Disability in Working-age Populations

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Proceedings from the Institute of Medicine workshop, "Disability in America: An Update," Aug. 1-2, 2005 in Washington, D.C. , page(s): 1-28

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The main aim of this paper is to describe and estimate a new decomposition of disability trends among working age populations into two parts -- the part of the trend explained by changes in the prevalence of chronic disease and obesity and the part of the trend explained by changes in the prevalence of disability among people with chronic diseases. If most of the changes in disability in this population are due to change in chronic disease prevalence, then there is little room for statutory incentives as an explanation for ADL disability trends. More importantly, such a result would suggest that recent changes in disability in this population are permanent for the affected age cohorts. If this cohort survives to old age, the use of medical care by this group will place great demands on Medicare financing.

On the other hand, if an increase in disability prevalence among those with chronic disease is the explanation, then there arise two possibilities: that chronic diseases have become more severe over time, or that the incidence of even ADL-style disabilities are dependent on cultural, social, and economic determinants such as the disability insurance payments. Such a result would suggest that the increases in ADL disability seen among working age populations might not be permanent.

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