Mortality and morbidity among older adults with intellectual disability: health services considerations

Disabil Rehabil. 1999 May-Jun;21(5-6):284-94. doi: 10.1080/096382899297710.


Purpose: Described is a study of the mortality and morbidity characteristics of 2752 adults with intellectual disability, age 40 and older, who died over a 10 year period in one American state.

Results: The main finding was that although individuals in the current generation of older adults with intellectual disability still generally die at an earlier age than do adults in the general population (average age at death: 66.1 years), many adults with intellectual disability live as long as their age peers in the general population. The results suggest that the longevity of adults with intellectual disability, whose aetiology is not attributable to organic causes, is progressively increasing. The results also confirm an increased longevity for adults with Down syndrome (average age at death: 55.8 years). Findings also showed that the causes of death for the study cohort were similar to those of the general older population, with cardiovascular, respiratory and neoplastic diseases among the most prominent causes of death.

Conclusions: It was proposed that clinical and prophylactic health practices could have significant social and health care consequences for delaying the onset or minimizing the occurrence of life threatening diseases (and thus prolonging life) in adults with intellectual disability. It was suggested that clinical practices could be implemented that deter the onset and lessen the impact and burden of older age-related diseases and secondary conditions and that greater attention needs to be given to training of health care professionals in the area of geriatric medicine and intellectual disability.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cause of Death
  • Down Syndrome
  • Female
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Male
  • Morbidity
  • New York
  • Persons with Mental Disabilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Residential Facilities