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Measuring the Activities of Daily Living: Comparisons Across National Surveys

Publication Date
Dec 31, 1989

The activities of daily living (ADLs) are the basic tasks of everyday life. Reported estimates of the size of the elderly population with ADL disabilities differ substantially across national surveys. Differences in which ADL items are being measured and in what constitutes a disability account for much of the variation. Other likely explanations are differences in sample design, sample size, survey methodology, and age structure of the population to which the sample refers. When essentially equivalent ADL measures are compared, estimates for the community-based population vary by up to 3.1 percentage points; and for the institutionalized population, with the exception of toileting, by no more than 3.2 percentage points. As small as these differences are in absolute terms, they can be large in percent differences across surveys. This article describes 11 recent surveys and how their ADL differences can effect policy analysis. (Journal of Gerontology: SOCIAL SCIENCES, November 1990, Volume 45, Number 6, Pages S229-237) [22 PDF pages]