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Declines in late-life disability: The role of early- and mid-life factors

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  • Freedman, Vicki A.
  • Martin, Linda G.
  • Schoeni, Robert F.
  • Cornman, Jennifer C.

Abstract

Investigations into the reasons for declines in late-life disability have largely focused on the role of contemporaneous factors. Adopting a life-course perspective as a backdrop, in this paper we ask whether there also has been a role for selected early- and mid-life factors in the decline, and if so whether these factors have been operating through changes in the risks of disability onset or recovery. Drawing on five waves from 1995 to 2004 of the U.S. Health and Retirement Study, we found for the 75 years and older population in the United States that the prevalence of difficulty with activities of daily living (ADL) declined from 30.2% in 1995 to 26.0% in 2004, whereas the trend in difficulty with instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) was flat. Onset of ADL limitations also was reduced during this period while recovery increased. Changes in the educational composition of the older population were linked to declines in the prevalence of ADL limitations, but there were also modest contributions of changes in mother's education, self-rated childhood health, and lifetime occupation. Declines in late-life vision impairments and increases in wealth also contributed substantially to the downward trend, and had chronic conditions not increased, it would have been even larger. Reductions in the onset of ADL limitations were partly driven by changes in educational attainment of respondents and their mothers and, in late-life, better vision and wealth. In contrast, the recovery trend was not accounted for by changes in early- or mid-life factors. We conclude that early- and mid-life factors have contributed along with late-life factors to U.S. late-life disability trends mainly through their influence on the onset of, rather than recovery from, limitations.

Suggested Citation

  • Freedman, Vicki A. & Martin, Linda G. & Schoeni, Robert F. & Cornman, Jennifer C., 2008. "Declines in late-life disability: The role of early- and mid-life factors," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(7), pages 1588-1602, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:66:y:2008:i:7:p:1588-1602
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Lee, Min-Ah, 2011. "Disparity in disability between native-born non-Hispanic white and foreign-born Asian older adults in the United States: Effects of educational attainment and age at immigration," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(8), pages 1249-1257, April.
    2. Kim, Jinyoung & Miech, Richard, 2009. "The Black-White difference in age trajectories of functional health over the life course," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(4), pages 717-725, February.
    3. Linda G. Martin & Qiushi Feng & Robert F. Schoeni & Yi Zeng, 2014. "Trends in Functional and Activity Limitations among Chinese Oldest-Old, 1998 to 2008," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 40(3), pages 475-495, September.
    4. Zachary Zimmer & Heidi Hanson & Ken Smith, 2016. "Childhood socioeconomic status, adult socioeconomic status, and old-age health trajectories," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 34(10), pages 285-320, February.
    5. Nicolas Sirven, 2012. "On the Socio-Economic Determinants of Frailty: Findings from Panel and Retrospective Data from SHARE," Working Papers DT52, IRDES institut for research and information in health economics, revised Dec 2012.
    6. Bowen, Mary Elizabeth, 2009. "Childhood socioeconomic status and racial differences in disability: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study (1998-2006)," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 433-441, August.
    7. Samir KC & Harold Lentzner, 2010. "The effect of education on adult mortality and disability: a global perspective," Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, vol. 8(1), pages 201-235.
    8. Szanton, Sarah L. & Thorpe, Roland J. & Whitfield, Keith, 2010. "Life-course financial strain and health in African-Americans," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 259-265, July.
    9. Jennifer Montez & Mark Hayward, 2014. "Cumulative Childhood Adversity, Educational Attainment, and Active Life Expectancy Among U.S. Adults," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(2), pages 413-435, April.
    10. repec:oup:geronb:v:72:y:2017:i:1:p:129-139. is not listed on IDEAS
    11. repec:eee:joecag:v:9:y:2017:i:c:p:63-70 is not listed on IDEAS

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