The Most Common Disability in the US

Disability rates across US explored, mobility problems most common

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) From vision to mental health to mobility, there are many types of disability. But how many people in the US face them?

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in 2013, around 1 out of every 5 adults in the US had some type of disability. Mobility disability was the most common type.

According to the authors of this new study, led by Elizabeth A. Courtney-Long, MA, MSPH, of the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, understanding the prevalence and types of disability can help government officials, health professionals and program coordinators better serve the health needs of people with disabilities.

To get a clear picture of disability in the US, Courtney-Long and team looked at data from the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System phone survey. The survey involved over 465,000 adults across the country. The results were used to estimate disability rates for the US as a whole.

This study not only explored overall disability rates, but the rates of individual types of disability. These included serious trouble seeing (vision disability), trouble concentrating, remembering or making decisions (cognition disability), trouble walking or climbing stairs (mobility disability), problems dressing or bathing (self-care disability) and trouble running errands alone (independent living disability).

Overall, 22.2 percent of surveyed adults in the US reported having a disability of some kind. This amounts to over 53 million adults in the country — or around 1 out of every 5 US adults, Courtney-Long and team explained.

Issues with mobility — reported by 13 percent of survey subjects — were the most common. Cognition disability — reported by 10.6 percent of subjects — was the second most common.

Independent living, vision and self-care disabilities were reported by 6.5 percent, 4.6 percent and 3.6 percent of the subjects, respectively.

The rates of different disabilities and overall disability varied from state to state. The lowest overall rate of disability — 16.4 percent — was seen in Minnesota. The highest rate — 31.5 percent — was in Alabama. Southern states often had higher rates of disability than other regions.

This study relied on self-reported disability data, which could allow for some error. Furthermore, the survey did not include subjects living in institutional settings or group homes — places that might have high disability rates, Courtney-Long and team noted.

This study was published online July 30 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.


Review Date: 
July 30, 2015
Last Updated:
August 11, 2015