Blacks, Some Hispanics More Likely To Become Disabled Than Whites Largely Because of Socioeconomic, Health Status, Report Finds
Blacks and some Hispanics over age 65 are more likely than their white counterparts to develop a disability, in large part because of socioeconomic and health statuses, according to a report published in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health, Reuters Health reports.
For the report, Northwestern University researchers led by Dorothy Dunlop compared disability among blacks, Hispanics and whites using a nationally representative group of 8,161 healthy men and women over age 65. After six years, black participants were 60% more likely and Hispanics who chose to be interviewed in Spanish were 80% more likely than whites to develop a disability, researchers found. Hispanics interviewed in English had a disability risk similar to whites, according to the report.
Researchers found virtually no disability disparities existed among the groups after taking into account socioeconomic status and healthy behaviors, such as exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight. Researchers concluded that healthy behaviors had more of an effect on whether a person developed a disability than chronic illness did. Black participants and Spanish-speaking Hispanic participants were less likely to engage in healthy behaviors, according to the report. Minorities also were less likely to have private supplemental health insurance in addition to Medicare -- a factor thought to lessen a person's chance of developing a disability.
Dunlop said that culturally tailored programs that increase physical activity and emphasize having a healthy weight "may prove to be efficient strategies not only for reducing rates of disability in activities of daily living but also for lowering racial/ethnic disparities in disability" (Reuters Health, 11/13).