Disability Burdens Among Older Americans Associated With Gender and Race/Ethnicity in Rural and Urban Areas


No prior research has investigated differences in disability-free and disabled life expectancy associated with rural or urban residence. This report addresses this gap, and identifies differences in healthy life expectancy that may signal important policy needs. The authors examined total life expectancy, disability-free life expectancy, and disabled life expectancy, comparing people in rural and urban areas. These expectancy measures for subgroups of rural and urban areas were compared, distinguished by sex, race (white and African American) and educational attainment. The authors found that among a cohort of Americans aged 65 to 69 in 1982, in seven of the eight subgroups, individuals in rural areas lived longer lives than those in urban areas. Rural as compared to urban people lived (a) more disability-free years, (b) more disabled years, and (c) a notably greater percentage of their lives with a disability. There were striking differences among the high and low education groups, with individuals with more education living substantially longer, less disabled lives. Women lived longer, more disabled lives than men. For most subgroups, African Americans lived shorter, more disabled lives than whites.

Rural and Minority Health Research Center
James Laditka, Sarah Laditka, Bankole Olatosi, Keith Elder