Background and objectives: Family physicians are responsible for the health and illness care of individuals with mental retardation (MR) in many community practices. Therefore, it is important to determine the special disease patterns for this group. This study determined if individuals with MR are at increased risk for selected chronic diseases.
Methods: We analyzed 366 individuals, living in the community, with a primary diagnosis of MR. The two comparison groups without MR were 427 individual Medicaid recipients and 746 privately insured individuals.
Results: Individuals with MR had higher rates of neurophysical conditions (eg, seizures, central nervous system conditions, and sensory loss) compared to the other two groups. However, they had lower rates of some chronic conditions and health behaviors (eg, hypertension, migraines/chronic headaches, diabetes, depression or anxiety, obesity, substance abuse, and smoking) compared to other Medicaid and insured patients.
Conclusions: Individuals with MR have lower rates of many chronic conditions, compared with other Medicaid recipients. This finding should reduce concerns among family physicians that treatment of this special population involves higher rates of chronic illness.