Socioeconomic and ethnic differences in disease burden and disparities in physical function in older adults

Grant H. Louie, Michael M. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Objectives: We investigated whether a greater burden of disease among poorer individuals and ethnic minorities accounted for socioeconomic and racial disparities in self-reported physical functioning among older adults. Methods: We used data from adults aged 60 years or older (n=5556) in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994 to test associations between education level, poverty index, and race/ethnicity and limitations in 11 functions. We adjusted for demographic features and measures of disease burden (comorbid conditions, smoking, hemoglobin level, serum albumin level, knee pain, body mass index, and skeletal muscle index). Results: Associations between education and functional limitations were attenuated after adjustment, but those with 0-8 years of education were more likely than those with 13 or more years of education to have limitations in 3 functions. Poverty was associated with a higher likelihood of limitations despite adjustment. The likelihood of limitations among non-Hispanic Blacks and Mexican Americans was similar to that of non-Hispanic Whites after adjustment. Conclusions: Socioeconomic disparities in functional limitations among older Americans exist independent of disease burden, whereas socioeconomic differences and disease burden account for racial disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1322-1329
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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