Objective: We examined black-white differences in activities of daily living (ADLs), functional limitations (FLs), vision/hearing/sensory impairment, and memory/learning problems in a large, nationally representative sample of community-dwelling and institutionalized people across the lifespan.
Methods: Data are from the 2006 American Community Survey (n=2,288,800). We included data on non-Hispanic black respondents (125,985 males and 145,780 females) and non-Hispanic white respondents (977,792 males and 1,039,243 females) ≥5 years of age. We used logistic regression to examine the black-white odds for each disability outcome. The overall response rate was 97.5%.
Results: For FLs, ADL limitations, and memory/learning problems, black people experienced higher odds of disability across the adult lifespan compared with white people. Black-white differences narrowed in older age. For vision/hearing problems, a black-white crossover was found in older age (≥85 years), where odds of vision/hearing problems were lower among black people than among white people. For all disability outcomes, black-white differences peaked in midlife (50-69 years of age), with black people having approximately 1.5 to two times the odds of disabilities as their white peers.
Conclusions: The study findings suggest the need to address black-white disparities across a range of disability outcomes throughout the lifespan. Future work identifying the factors accounting for this pattern of disparities will help inform the development of appropriate prevention strategies.