Disability and morbidity among US birth cohorts, 1998-2018: A multidimensional test of dynamic equilibrium theory.

TitleDisability and morbidity among US birth cohorts, 1998-2018: A multidimensional test of dynamic equilibrium theory.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsShen, T, Payne, CF
JournalSSM - population health
ISSN Number2352-8273
KeywordsAging, Disability, Dynamic equilibrium, Health expectancy, Morbidity

A substantial body of prior research has explored patterns of disability-free and morbidity-free life expectancy among older populations. However, these distinct facets of later-life health are almost always studied in isolation, even though they are very likely to be related. Using data from the US Health and Retirement Study and a multistate life table approach, this paper explores the interactions between disability, morbidity, and mortality by sex and education among four successive US birth cohorts, born from 1914 to 1923 to 1944-1953 and compared in the periods 1998-2008 and 2008-2018. We find little compression of disability but a marked expansion of morbidity across cohorts. However, disability-free life expectancy (DFLE) among those living with chronic morbidities has increased, even though at the population-level DFLE is largely unchanged. Broadly, these patterns suggest that successive cohorts of older populations in the US are experiencing a dynamic equilibrium, where the link between chronic morbidities and disability has weakened over successive cohorts. Investigating patterns by educational attainment, we find marked disparities where the least educated individuals not only live significantly fewer years free of disabilities or chronic morbidities but also have experienced an expansion in morbidity and disability. Our findings suggest that the future trajectory of disability-free life expectancy in the US is increasingly contingent on efforts to improve disease management and control the severe consequences of chronic morbidities.

Citation Key13603
PubMed ID37927816
PubMed Central IDPMC10625143