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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Nov 28;103(48):18374-9. Epub 2006 Nov 13.

Change in chronic disability from 1982 to 2004/2005 as measured by long-term changes in function and health in the U.S. elderly population.

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Center for Demographic Studies, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0408, USA.


Changes in the health and functioning of the Medicare-enrolled population aged 65+ are tracked by using the 1982-2004/2005 National Long-Term Care Surveys. We found a significant rate of decline in the prevalence of chronic disability that accelerated from 1982 to 2004. These declines are significant for both persons with less severe chronic disability, which might be compensated by modifying the built environment and providing assistive devices, and for persons with more serious disability, which may be affected by reductions in the incidence and severity of disease through biomedical interventions. Declines in chronic disability continued over the 22-year period at a rate fast enough (i.e., 1.52% per annum) to contribute significantly to the long-term fiscal stability of the Medicare (and Medicaid) programs. Changes in the rate and substance of disability declines seem consistent with the intentions of policy interventions in Medicare and Medicaid.

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