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Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014 Nov;151(5):765-9. doi: 10.1177/0194599814549156. Epub 2014 Sep 5.

The prevalence of dysphagia among adults in the United States.

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Department of Otology & Laryngology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA



To determine the prevalence of dysphagia, reported etiologies, and impact among adults in the United States.


Cross-sectional analysis of a national health care survey.


The 2012 National Health Interview Survey was analyzed, identifying adult cases reporting a swallowing problem in the preceding 12 months. In addition to demographic data, specific data regarding visits to health care professionals for swallowing problems, diagnoses given, and severity of the swallowing problem were analyzed. The relationship between swallowing problems and lost workdays was assessed.


An estimated 9.44 ± 0.33 million adults (raw N = 1554; mean age, 52.1 years; 60.2% ± 1.6% female) reported a swallowing problem (4.0% ± 0.1%). Overall, 22.7% ± 1.7% saw a health care professional for their swallowing problem, and 36.9% ± 0.1.7% were given a diagnosis. Women were more likely than men to report a swallowing problem (4.7% ± 0.2% versus 3.3% ± 0.2%, P < .001). Of the patients, 31.7% and 24.8% reported their swallowing problem to be a moderate or a big/very big problem, respectively. Stroke was the most commonly reported etiology (422,000 ± 77,000; 11.2% ± 1.9%), followed by other neurologic cause (269,000 ± 57,000; 7.2% ± 1.5%) and head and neck cancer (185,000 ± 40,000; 4.9% ± 1.1%). The mean number of days affected by the swallowing problem was 139 ± 7. Respondents with a swallowing problem reported 11.6 ± 2.0 lost workdays in the past year versus 3.4 ± 0.1 lost workdays for those without a swallowing problem (contrast, +8.1 lost workdays, P < .001).


Swallowing problems affect 1 in 25 adults, annually. A relative minority seek health care for their swallowing problem, even though the subjective impact and associated workdays lost with the swallowing problem are significant.


dysphagia; epidemiology; prevalence; stroke; swallowing

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