Cross-National Differences in Disability Among Elders: Transitions in Disability in Mexico and the United States

Kerstin Gerst-Emerson, Rebeca Wong, Alejandra Michaels-Obregon, Alberto Palloni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: Little is known about how exposure to a combination of infectious and chronic conditions throughout the lifecourse could impact disability in old age. This paper compares 2 cohorts of adults who have aged under very different country contexts by contrasting disability transitions among elders in Mexico with elders in the United States.

METHODS: Data comes from the Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS) and the U.S. Health and Retirement Study (HRS). Estimated probabilities of 2-year transitions among disability states and mortality are presented for adults aged 50 and older.

RESULTS: The levels of disability prevalence and 2 year transitions are consistent with a higher rate of disability for the United States compared to Mexico. In 2-year transitions, the U.S. sample was more likely to transition to a disabled state or increase the number of disabilities than the Mexican counterparts, while Mexicans are more likely to move out of disability or reduce the number of disabilities reported.

DISCUSSION: The findings suggest that the current rate of disability in old age is lower for a less developed country compared with a developed society. We discuss implications, possible explanations, and likely future scenarios.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)759-768
Number of pages10
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Disability
  • Elders—Mexico
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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