Levels of disability among US adults with arthritis

The focus of health research and health planning in the United States has shifted from extending life to helping people take care of themselves as independently as possible while living in the community. But with increased life span has come an increase in the incidence of chronic illness. One such chronic condition is arthritis. Arthritis is the most prevalent of the chronic conditions afflicting middle-aged and older Americans, and it is cited most often as the principle source of limitation in later life. To describe the characteristics of arthritis in the US, data pertaining to a sample of community-dwelling individuals aged 55 years and over were obtained from the 1984 National Health Interview Survey. Data were available for 16,148 people. This sample reported more difficulty in physical functioning, personal care, and performing household chores than nonarthritic people did. The most significant differences by far between arthritic and nonarthritic people were in the physical functioning category. Such routine tasks as walking, reaching, and stooping were reportedly difficult or impossible for arthritics. Physical activities requiring strength and endurance were reported to be particularly difficult. Other tasks, in the categories of personal and household care, were more easily accommodated for, suggesting that arthritics are much more able to offset their disease in these areas than they are in physical functioning. Therefore, while physical functioning may be compromised in arthritics, they remain socially connected and fulfilled in their general ability to continue caring for themselves. (Consumer Summary produced by Reliance Medical Information, Inc.)