Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Disability and health status: ethnic differences among women in the United States
  1. Elena M Andresen,
  2. Ross C Brownson
  1. Department of Community Health, School of Public Health, Saint Louis University School of Public Health, 3663 Lindell Blvd, St Louis, MO 63108, USA
  1. Dr Andresen


STUDY OBJECTIVES There are few data describing disability and health status for ethnic groups. The disablement process involves social influences, which may include minority status. Cross sectional data were examined to investigate the relation of ethnicity to disability.

DESIGN A stratified random digit dialled sample of women aged 40 and older. Disability and health status were measured as functional and activity limitations, work disability, and days of poor physical and mental health.

SETTING United States.

PARTICIPANTS Women interviewed by telephone included 774 white, 749 African-American, 660 Hispanic, and 739 Native American women.

MAIN RESULTS The prevalence of disability was higher among minority women when classified by general health status, and the need for personal care assistance. There was a striking excess of work disability: 3.5% of white women compared with 7.1% to 10.3% for minority women. The differences were reduced when adjusted for other risk factors and socioeconomic status. White and minority women reported more similar disability when it was defined by poor mental and physical health days.

CONCLUSIONS Disability is correlated with social and demographic characteristics as well as medical diagnoses. Ethnicity also is associated with disability and may be part of a social context for disablement. Future research should concentrate on the temporal sequence of disability. Consistent definitions of disability will facilitate this research.

  • women's health
  • health status
  • disability
  • minority groups

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding: this project was funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contract U48/CCU710806 (Centers for Research and Demonstration of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention), including support from the Community Prevention Study of the NIH Women's Health Initiative.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.