Chronic conditions and disabilities among seniors: an analysis of population-based health and activity limitation surveys.
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PURPOSE: To describe the prevalence of disabilities and the medical conditions and risk factors associated with mobility and agility disabilities among seniors. METHODS: In the 1986 and 1991 Canadian Census, every fifth person answered a screening question about activity limitation and disabilities. A probability sample of both those reporting and not reporting disability was selected to complete the Health and Activity Limitations Surveys (HALS) in 1986 and 1991. These two cross-sectional surveys conducted five years apart collected detailed activity limitation information about persons over 15 years of age. The current analysis was based on only respondents aged 65 years and older. The sample size for 65 years and older was 38518 in 1986 and 5106 in 1991. A computer link with the Census data provided household income and additional socio-demographic data for all respondents. RESULTS: Over 40% of Canadian seniors reported at least one disability, and approximately a quarter of disabled seniors were classified as severely disabled. Mobility and agility disabilities accounted for over 80% of all disabilities reported by seniors, and senior women were more likely than men to report having a mobility or agility disability. Arthritis/rheumatism was reported as the cause of over 30% of all mobility and agility disabilities. CONCLUSIONS: The continued monitoring of disabilities through surveys such as HALS will help determine the prevalence as well as aid in the identification of the causes of disabilities. Such information may be used to guide the implementation of appropriate public health interventions that will meet the changing health care needs of seniors.
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