Race plays a role in disability in older adults with arthritis

July 30, 2007

Arthritis is common among elderly Americans, and as the population ages it is expected to increase. At the same time, disability is increasing in patients with arthritis and the racial/ethnic composition of the U.S. is changing; minority populations are forecasted to increase from 30.6 percent of the population in 2000 to 49.9 percent by 2050.

A new study published in the August issue of Arthritis Care & Research examined the rates at which different racial groups develop disability, how differences between groups can be accounted for, and the significant risk factors that predict the development of disability among older adults with arthritis.

Led by Jing Song of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL, researchers examined data from the 1998-2004 Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a national study of noninstitutionalized older Americans. Using information from 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004, their analysis included 7,257 respondents who reported arthritis and were initially disability free. The group was comprised of 85.5 percent whites, 9.3 percent African Americans, 2.4 percent Hispanics who spoke Spanish and 2.9 percent Hispanics who spoke English. Respondents were questioned as to whether they had arthritis, and disability was established by an inability (after the initial interview) to perform at least one task in the activities of daily living (ADL) as defined by the HRS: dressing, walking across a room, getting in or out of bed, bathing, eating and toileting.

The results showed that 1 out of 6 people reported disability in at least one ADL task over the 6-year follow-up period, but there were substantial differences across race/ethnicity groups. The rates of ADL disability among African Americans and Hispanic/Spanish were almost twice that of whites; Hispanic/English had rates similar to whites. The study differentiated between Hispanics who spoke English and those who spoke Spanish in order to consider whether adapting to a new culture (as measured by language) can affect health status. The authors note that language barriers may limit educational and occupational choices, and social stress related to poverty may contribute to the greater disability experienced by the Hispanic/Spanish group.

The study investigated the influence of health and medical access on racial/ethnic differences in developing disability and found that the differences were due to other chronic health conditions, functional limitation (such as an inability to walk several blocks), and health behaviors (such as smoking, alcohol consumption and regular exercise). Medical access also substantially influenced differences in the development of disability. In addition to having fewer economic resources, minorities were more likely to be uninsured or rely on Medicaid coverage. The authors note that lack of private insurance may indicate poorer quality of health care received and that those with lower tier health plans commonly have fewer choices regarding health services, which can compromise their quality of care.

The authors acknowledge that the study included self-reported arthritis, did not include information on the severity of the condition, and that the findings might have been influenced by unmeasured factors such as occupation, job demands, poorer living conditions and segregation. Nonetheless, the results showed that among older adults with arthritis, differences among racial groups in developing disabilities was largely due to differences in health status and medical access. “At the clinical level, not only should treatment of comorbid conditions be considered, but also disease prevention, prevention and treatment of functional limitations, and promotion of healthy behaviors should be a priority for all patients with arthritis to prevent the development of disability,” the authors conclude. “Future research should be directed at how to more effectively deliver such programs especially to minority populations.”

Source: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Explore further: Our calculator will guess how many healthy years of life you have left

Related Stories

Our calculator will guess how many healthy years of life you have left

October 17, 2017
As the old saying goes, the only things certain in life are death and taxes. While death is inevitable, the quality of life you experience until death is often within an individual's control.

Newborns with trisomy 13 or 18 benefit from heart surgery, study finds

October 18, 2017
Heart surgery significantly decreases in-hospital mortality among infants with either of two genetic disorders that cause severe physical and intellectual disabilities, according to a new study by a researcher at the Stanford ...

What is the scope of neurological diseases in the world today?

October 16, 2017
Globally, the burden of neurological disorders (Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke, epilepsy etc) has increased substantially over the past 25 years. This problem is the topic of a recent report by the Global ...

New survey reveals concerns about impact of migraine on work productivity

October 11, 2017
A significant percentage of migraine sufferers as well as those without the disease are concerned that migraine affects work productivity, quality of life, family/relationships and employment, according to a new national ...

Autism prevalence and socioeconomic status: What's the connection?

October 11, 2017
Children living in neighborhoods where incomes are low and fewer adults have bachelor's degrees are less likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder compared to kids from more affluent neighborhoods.

State laws requiring autism coverage by private insurers led to increases in autism care

October 11, 2017
A new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has found that the enactment of state laws mandating coverage of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was followed by sizable increases in insurer-covered ...

Recommended for you

Pair of discoveries illuminate new paths to flu and anthrax treatments

October 17, 2017
Two recent studies led by biologists at the University of California San Diego have set the research groundwork for new avenues to treat influenza and anthrax poisoning.

Portable 3-D scanner assesses patients with elephantiasis

October 17, 2017
An estimated 120 million people worldwide are infected with lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic, mosquito-borne disease that can cause major swelling and deformity of the legs, a condition known as elephantiasis. Health-care ...

New tools to combat kidney fibrosis

October 16, 2017
Interstitial fibrosis – excessive tissue scarring – contributes to chronic kidney disease, which is increasing in prevalence in the United States.

How hepatitis C hides in the body

October 13, 2017
The Hepatitis C (HCV) virus is a sly enemy to have in one's body. Not only does it manage to make itself invisible to the immune system by breaking down communication between the immune cells, it also builds secret virus ...

Largest study yet of malaria in Africa shows historical rates of infection

October 12, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with members from the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the University of Oxford and the University of KwaZulu-Natal has conducted the largest-ever study of the history of malaria ...

Promising new target for treatment of psoriasis is safe, study shows

October 11, 2017
A protein known to play a significant role in the development of psoriasis can be prevented from functioning without posing a risk to patients, scientists at King's College London have found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.