Disability in Later Life: Exploring Patterns of Limitations across Age

Scott M. Lynch, Princeton University
J. Scott Brown, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) indexes are the most commonly-used instruments in estimating active life expectancy (ALE). Virtually all research on ALE has relied on counts of ADLs, but such indexes obscure heterogeneity in the disability process. That is, we know little about exactly which patterns of limitation are most common and which lead to the lowest estimates of ALE and overall life expectancy. Here, we use two waves of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to begin investigating patterns of disability. With two waves of data, six measured ADLs at each wave (plus death as an outcome at wave 2), there are 26X(26+1)=4,160 possible disability patterns. Preliminary results, however, show that there are only 260 empirical patterns, with many of those patterns represented by only one person. In this paper, we examine these patterns and begin to examine sociodemographic factors that sort individuals into them.

Presented in Session 111: Demography of Disability