Turning the Disability Tide: The Importance of Definitions

January 31, 2008

JAMA: Forty million to 50 million individuals in the United States now live with potentially disabling conditions. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), this number will likely increase substantially in coming decades.1 Aging baby boomers will fuel much of this growth as this enormous cohort enters age ranges with the greatest disease and disability risks. Although rates of some serious limitations among elderly individuals have declined,2 sobering reports warn of higher rates of potentially impairing conditions among children3 and working-age adults.4 These latter trends are multifaceted with diverse contributors, including major therapeutic breakthroughs that now save lives of severely impaired individuals who would once have died and increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity among youth and young adults, along with associated problems such as diabetes.

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