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Chartbook on Women and Disability

Section 1: Women and disability throughout the life cycle: Definitions and prevalence

1.3. Are the activity limitations of women and men caused by different conditions?

On average, women report a higher number of conditions causing activity limitations than men (1.67 versus 1.56 limiting conditions per person reporting the activity limitation). As shown in the table below, there are also gender differences in the conditions that males and females report as the main causes of their activity limitations. Both sexes report back disorders as the most prevalent main cause of disability. Arthritis ranks as the second highest main cause of disability for women, and arthritis is more than twice as prevalent for women as for men (13.3% versus 5.8%). For women, heart disease ranks third, followed by asthma and orthopedic impairments of the lower extremities. Learning disabilities and mental retardation are less frequent disabling conditions for females than for males.

Women are more than twice as likely to be disabled by arthritis; men and boys are twice as likely to be disabled by learning disabilities or mental retardation.

Main condition causing limitation Number (in 1000s) % Main condition causing limitation Number (in 1000s) %
All conditions 19,950 100.0 All conditions 17,783 100.0
1. Spine or back conditions 3,059 15.3 1. Spine or back conditions 2,829 15.9
2. Arthritis & allied disorders 2,660 13.3 2. Heart diseases 2,028 11.4
3. Heart diseases 1,943 9.7 3. Orthopedic impairment of lower extremity 1,086 6.1
4. Asthma 1,051 5.3 4. Arthritis & allied disorders 1,038 5.8
5. Orthopedic impairment of lower extremity 833 4.2 5. Asthma 964 5.4
6. Mental disorders 668 3.3 6. Learning disability & mental retardation 881 5.0
7. Diabetes 665 3.3 7. Mental disorders 825 4.6
8. Learning disability & mental retardation 507 2.5 8. Diabetes 524 2.9
Table 1: Activity-limiting main conditions with highest prevalence, by gender

Source: LaPlante & Carlson (1996), Table M, p. 49.

Surveys: NHIS, 1992

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