Age patterns of racial/ethnic/nativity differences in disability and physical functioning in the United States

Jennifer Melvin, Robert Hummer, Irma Elo, Neil Mehta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Rapid population aging and increasing racial/ethnic and immigrant/native diversity make a broad documentation of U.S. health patterns during both mid- and late life particularly important. OBjective: We aim to better understand age- and gender-specific racial/ethnic and nativity differences in physical functioning and disability among adults aged 50 and above. Methods: We aggregate 14 years of data from the National Health Interview Survey and calculate age- and gender-specific proportions of physical functioning and two types of disability for each population subgroup. Results: Middle-aged foreign-born individuals in nearly every subgroup exhibit lower proportions of functional limitations and disability than U.S.-born whites. This pattern of immigrant advantage is generally reversed in later life. Moreover, most U.S.-born minority groups have significantly higher levels of functional limitations and disability than U.S.-born whites in both mid- and late life. Conclusions: Higher levels of functional limitations and disability among U.S.-born minority groups and immigrant populations in older adulthood pose serious challenges for health providers and policymakers in a rapidly diversifying and aging population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-510
Number of pages14
JournalDemographic Research
Volume31
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography

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