Chronic disability trends in elderly United States populations: 1982-1994.
Statistically significant declines in chronic disability prevalence rates were observed in the elderly United States population between the 1982 and 1989 National Long Term Care Surveys (NLTCS). The 1994 NLTCS was used to investigate whether disability rate declines continued to 1994. The 1982, 1984, 1989, and 1994 NLTCS employ the same sample design and instrumentation so that trends in disability can be estimated with minimal sampling and measurement bias. Age (5-year categories from 65 to >95)-specific rates were calculated for the 1982 NLTCS and applied to United States Census Bureau estimates of the 1994 population to calculate chronic disability prevalence rates adjusted for aging in the United States population aged > 65. The 1982 age standardized rates were compared with 1994 NLTCS estimates. The prevalence of disability estimated for 1994 (21.3%) was 3.6% lower than the 1982 age standardized rate (24.9%)-a highly significant reduction (t = -8.5; P << 0.0001). Of the 3.6 percentage point decline in prevalence, 1.7% occurred in the 5 years between 1989 and 1994-compared with the 1.9% decline in the 7 years between 1982 and 1989. Both declines are significant. Because of the shorter time period, the per year decline in disability prevalence from 1989 to 1994 was greater than that from 1982 to 1989. Given the higher acute and long-term care service needs of the disabled elderly population, Medicare, Medicaid, and private health expenditures may be dramatically lower than if declines had not occurred.
Manton, KG; Corder, L; Stallard, E
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