U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Activity Limitations and Disabilities

Although disability may be defined in many different ways, one common guideline is whether a person is able to perform common activities—such as walking up stairs, standing or sitting for several hours at a time, grasping small objects, or carrying items such as groceries—without assistance. In 2007, nearly 14.4 percent of adults reported having at least one condition that limited their ability to perform one or more of these common activities (data not shown). Women were more likely than men to report being limited in their activities (15.6 versus 13.0 percent, respectively).

The percentage of adults reporting at least one activity limitation varied with age among both men and women. Only 6.5 percent of women aged 18–44 years reported any activity limitation, compared to 28.9 percent of women aged 65–74 years and 47.9 percent of women aged 75 years or older.

In 2007, the percentage of women reporting at least one activity limitation varied by race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic Black women were most likely to report at least one limitation (18.4 percent), followed by non-Hispanic White women (16.5 percent). Asian women were least likely to report any activity limitation (7.1 percent). More than 10 percent of Hispanic women also reported an activity limitation (data not shown).

Among women with any activity limitations, the causes of these limitations also varied by race and ethnicity. For instance, 30.1 percent of non-Hispanic Black women who were limited in some way cited arthritis or rheumatism as the condition limiting their activity, compared to 26.5 percent of non-Hispanic White and 25.5 percent of Hispanic women. Depression, anxiety, and emotional problems were the cause of activity limitation among 16.8 percent of Hispanic women, 12.4 percent of non-Hispanic White and 9.7 percent of non-Hispanic Black women.

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