Prevalence and etiologies of adult communication disabilities in the United States: Results from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey

Disabil Health J. 2016 Jan;9(1):140-4. doi: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2015.07.004. Epub 2015 Jul 22.


Background: Communication disabilities, including speech, language and voice disabilities, can significantly impact a person's quality of life, employment and health status. Despite this, little is known about the prevalence and etiology of communication disabilities in the general adult population.

Objectives: To assess the prevalence and etiology of communication disabilities in a nationally representative adult sample.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study and analyzed the responses of non-institutionalized adults to the Sample Adult Core questionnaire within the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. We used respondents' self-report of having a speech, language or voice disability within the past year and receiving a diagnosis for one of these communication disabilities, as well as the etiology of their communication disability. We additionally examined the responses by subgroups, including sex, age, race and ethnicity, and geographical area.

Results: In 2012 approximately 10% of the US adult population reported a communication disability, while only 2% of adults reported receiving a diagnosis. The rates of speech, language and voice disabilities and diagnoses varied across gender, race/ethnicity and geographic groups. The most common response for the etiology of a communication disability was "something else."

Conclusions: Improved understanding of population prevalence and etiologies of communication disabilities will assist in appropriately directing rehabilitation and medical services; potentially reducing the burden of communication disabilities.

Keywords: Communication disability; Epidemiology; Etiology.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Communication Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Communication Disorders / etiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Speech*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Voice*
  • Young Adult