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Older Americans Appear to Be Facing Increased Disability

Trend seen in 60- to 69-year-olds; non-Caucasians, obese have fastest-growing burden

MONDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- There is a worrying trend of increased disability among older Americans in the 60 to 69 age group, regardless of sociodemographic characteristics, health status and health behaviors, particularly among those who are overweight, obese or not Caucasian, according to a study published online Nov. 12 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Teresa E. Seeman, Ph.D., of the University of California in Los Angeles, and colleagues analyzed data on 8,927 older adults derived from the 1988 to 1994 and 1999 to 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys to assess time trends in several domains such as mobility, instrumental activities, basic activities of daily living and functional limitations.

Among the 4,070 subjects aged 60 to 69 years, there were significant increases in disability in all categories except functional limitations, and the findings held independent of sociodemographic characteristics, health status and behaviors, and relative weight, the researchers found. Subjects who were not Caucasian or who were overweight or obese exhibited the biggest increases. There were no trends detected among respondents of the 70 to 79 age group.

"Our results have significant and sobering implications," the authors write. "Indeed, to the extent that persons currently aged 60 to 69 years are harbingers of likely disability trends for the massive baby boomer generation, the health care and assistance needs of disabled older Americans could, in the not-so-distant future, impose heavy burdens on families and society."

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