What Problem Was Studied?
Arthritis is common among elderly Americans, regardless of race. What is not known, however, is whether people of different racial or ethnic groups become disabled due arthritis at the same rate. A study published in the August issue of Arthritis Care & Research examined the rates at which different racial groups developed disability, how differences between groups can be accounted for, and the significant risk factors that predict the development of disability among older adults with arthritis.
What Was Done in the Study?
Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago analyzed data from 7,257 respondents of the Health and Retirement Study. The questionnaire gathered information on, among other things, whether they had arthritis and respondents’ ability to perform various activities of daily living (ADL; dressing, walking across a room, getting in or out of bed, bathing, eating and toileting).
What Were the Study Results?
Results showed that one in six participants reported disability in at least one ADL over the 6-year study period. Substantial differences across race and ethnicity groups were identified. Rates of disability among African Americans and Spanish-speaking Hispanics were almost twice that seen in whites. English-speaking Hispanics, however, had disability rates similar to those of whites. Language preference for the interview served as a proxy for the level of acculturation. The authors indicate that being less ensconced and comfortable in the host society may lead to disadvantages related to limited educational and occupational choices as well as social stress related to poverty. These issues may then contribute to a greater disability burden among the Spanish-speaking Hispanic population.
When examining the factors that contributed to the disability rates in the various groups, the research team found that the disparities could be explained by differences in health and medical access factors. Minorities had more coexisting medical conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension and depression. At the same time, fewer of the minority participants had health insurance and they also had fewer resources to obtain medical care in terms of education, income and wealth.
What Does This Mean for People with Arthritis?
The authors recommend that coexisting conditions be treated or prevented, functional limitations be prevented or treated, and healthy behaviors be promoted among people with arthritis to prevent the development of disability. They say, “Future research should be directed at how to more effectively deliver such programs especially to minority populations. Policy recommendations that provide incentives to address these factors should be considered.” To learn more about getting involved in advocating for public policy recommendations, visit the advocacy section of the Arthritis Foundation’s site.
Song J, Chang JH, Tirodkar M, Chang RW, Manhyeim LM, Dunlop DD. Racial/Ethnic Differences in Activities of Daily Living Disability in Older Adults With Arthritis: A Longitudinal Study. Arthritis Rheum (Arthritis Care Res) 2007;57:1058-66.
Read the complete journal article via PatientInform. This link will take you to the abstract. From there, click on either the HTML or PDF full-text article.