International Evidence on Disability Trends among the Elderly


Are today's elderly healthier than previous generations or does increased longevity come with increased risk of disability and reduced quality of life? In the ongoing search for a definitive answer, this paper provides a comprehensive review of the evidence, both for the United States and internationally. The basic conclusion is that disability rates are falling in most industrialized countries. For the countries where no decline is apparent, there is no consistent evidence that disability rates are rising. How fast they are falling, and what this may mean for national budgets are still unclear, however, because wide disparities in the disability measures, field procedures, and sample designs prevent comparability across data sources. After reviewing and assessing the quality of the evidence, this report ends with recommendations for future data collection and analysis to increase comparability and narrow the range of the estimates. [40 PDF pages]

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