Disability Prevalence Among Adults: Estimates for 54 Countries and Progress Towards a Global Estimate

Forthcoming in Disability and Rehabilitation

48 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2013 Last revised: 28 Jun 2015

See all articles by Sophie Mitra

Sophie Mitra

Fordham University

Usha Sambamoorthi

West Virginia University

Date Written: July 1, 2013


Objectives: We estimated disability prevalence among adults at global, regional and country levels using internationally comparable disability data and measure.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective analysis of data from the World Health Survey (WHS) (2002-2004) for nationally representative samples of civilian, non-institutionalized populations in 54 countries. A disability was measured as having at least one severe or extreme difficulty with bodily functions (seeing, concentrating) and activities (moving around, self-care) based on an individual’s self-reports.

Results: In the 54 countries under study, severe or extreme functional or activity difficulties are highly prevalent. For all countries, disability prevalence is estimated at 14% for all adults. Low and middle income countries have higher disability prevalence compared to high income countries. Among subgroups, disability prevalence stands at 12% among working age adults and 39% among the elderly. Women have higher prevalence than men.

Conclusions: Disability is found to be highly prevalent among adults, with an estimated global prevalence at 14%. Disability deserves enhanced policy attention and resources in public health and international development.

Keywords: Disability prevalence, development

JEL Classification: I1, J4

Suggested Citation

Mitra, Sophie and Sambamoorthi, Usha, Disability Prevalence Among Adults: Estimates for 54 Countries and Progress Towards a Global Estimate (July 1, 2013). Forthcoming in Disability and Rehabilitation, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2329676 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2329676

Sophie Mitra (Contact Author)

Fordham University ( email )

441 East Fordham road
Bronx, NY 10458
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.fordham.edu/economics/mitra

Usha Sambamoorthi

West Virginia University

PO Box 6025
Morgantown, WV 26506
United States

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