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Recent work has shown that rates of severe disability, measured by the inability to perform basic activities of daily living, have been rising in working age populations. We examine the extent to which chronic disease trends can explain these disability trends. Our primary findings are that for 30 to 45 year-old populations between 1984 and 1996: (1) disability prevalence fell dramatically among the non-chronically ill; (2) rising obesity prevalence explains about 40% of the rise in disability attributable to trends chronic illness; and (3) rising disability prevalence among the chronically ill explains about 60% of the rise in disability attributable to trends in chronic illness.
Country of focus: United States.