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Health Aff (Millwood). 2001 Nov-Dec;20(6):11-27.

Declining disability among the elderly.

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  • 1Department of Economics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.


This paper analyzes evidence on changes in disability among the elderly and considers its implications. Disability among the elderly has declined by 1 percent or more per year for the past several decades. Strong evidence relates these changes to improved medical technology and to behavioral changes. Changes in socioeconomic status, disease exposure, and use of supportive aids are likely important as well, although their magnitude is difficult to gauge. Should disability improvements continue, the projected increase in medical spending resulting from technological changes in health care would be moderated, but not eliminated. Disability change also may facilitate an increase in age of retirement.

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